The day really begins with opening your inbox. It begins with claims on time and attention. And even if time hangs heavy and even if attention is all one has, even so. It is frightening to think that all your life you might be standing somewhere with a banner screaming necessary outrage. All your life you could be marching and the drums would never fall silent because the battle never did end.
You have attended meetings for solidarity, to brainstorm about how to get one Dr Binayak Sen out of jail. You heaved a sigh of relief when he was released (only on bail). Then you heard about Avinash Kulkarni.
You didn't know Dr Sen. You don't know Avinash. You don't know Kishore either. That's what they call Srinivas Sattayya Kurapati, who migrated to Surat and grew active in the trade union movement. In 2006, he joined Darshan, an NGO in Ahmedabad. He's married a woman called Hansaben. And now he's in jail. So is Hansaben. So is her uncle Ambubhai Vaghela.
If you're on mailing lists of the unnerving sort, you'll find out that Avinash had spent years working in the Dangs, most recently helping tribal communities use the Forest Rights Act to retain some semblance of control over their own lives and resources. You might also find out that Ambubhai is a cultural activist. Had founded the Lok Kala Manch in 1980, produced plays on Dalit issues, women’s issues, communal harmony. Others will tell you that he countered the Modi brigade long before 2002 and more intensely after 2002.
You don't know any of this. This is what you read, and you read different theories about why they were arrested.
Here's one line of thought: "There are reasons to believe that the Naxal label has proved very useful for Gujarat and that the state government is going slow in implementing the FRA. In Dangs, not a single “patta” — legal papers for ownership of cultivation land in the forest area — has been handed over to any tribal claimant so far. “The Gujarat government does not like social justice movements. The arrests are aimed at stopping the legal tribal rights movements,” says Uttam Parmar, a Gandhian tribal rights activist."
And here is what some people are doing in response: "Valjibhai Vaghela, a close associate of Ambubhai, said people in Gomtipur and its neighbourhood had decided to put up boards at all houses “proclaiming themselves as Naxalites and getting ready to be arrested to flood the jails” if this was the way the Gujarat police wanted to stifle the voices of the downtrodden."
You might believe that the political and police leadership in Gujarat is imagining a Maoist presence. Or not. You might be persuaded to pay attention. You might find the energy, the voice, the courage, the time. Or perhaps not.
It took two years of lobbying and pressuring and arguing in court before Dr Sen was grated bail. It took several activists traveling to Chhattisgarh and courting arrest in Raipur. Perhaps, they will have to travel to Ahmedabad now.
For now, Avinash Kulkarni is staying put in prison. Perhaps, he counts the days. Perhaps, he counts on the larger activist and journalist fraternity to help get him out. Perhaps he counts on nothing except that the sun rise and the morning come and the free open their inboxes to plan their day.
A retired customs' officer has also been arrested in Gujarat. Apparently, he's accused of conducting training sessions for the CPI-ML Janshakti in 2000 in Kerela.
Question is, what kind of training?