Day of the Imprisoned Writer: A Day to resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression

Day of the Imprisoned Writer: A Day to resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression

The Day of the Imprisoned Writer is an annual, international day intended to recognize and support writers who resist repression of the basic human right to freedom of expression and who stand up to attacks made against their right to impart information. This day is observed each year on November 15. It was started in 1981 by PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

The international PEN network of over 100 centers around the world to draw particular attention to writers at risk and threats to free expression globally. By detaining or forcefully throttling the voice of writers, media, journalists, the society, nation, or state deprive them of their individual right to free speech and the public of their right to information. As per PEN America found that last year, at least 273 writers and public intellectuals worldwide were jailed for their free expression, a number that increased from 238 writers in 2019.

This year, marking the 40-year anniversary of the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, PEN America is holding a virtual panel discussion with special remarks from noted writers and Members of Congress in honor of imprisoned and at-risk writers around the world. On this day, the organization remembers their imprisonment and forced absence with an empty chair.

List of  authors at risk in India

Here is list of authors in India who are at such risk. The report is compiled on PEN America. As per the list, there are nine such authors, writers, journalists, educationists. Most of them are detained due to distinct reasons.

P. Varavara Rao — A renowned Telugu poet and leftist intellectual, Rao has been imprisoned by multiple governments for his viewpoints. In August 2018, he was arrested with other activists accused of inciting inter-caste violence at a protest. Due to ailments, the octogenarian poet has been released on an extended medical furlough since March 6, 2021.

Arun Ferreira — In August 2018, Ferreira was arrested and detained on politically motivated charges of incitement to violence along with other leftist writer-activists in a coordinated raid. His charge sheet was seized, and his pleas to be granted parole and bail have been repeatedly rejected.

Sudha Bharadwaj — On August 28, 2018, Bharadwaj’s house was raided, and she was detained for ‘inciting violence on December 30, 2017, as part of a coordinated series of politically motivated arrests of leftist activists in the Bhima-Koregaon case. She applied for medical bail in June 2020 due to her declining health and increased vulnerability to contracting COVID-19 but was rejected. In August, the Bombay High Court rejected her appeal.

Anand Teltumbde — Leading public intellectual and Dalit activist Teltumbde was charged with inciting caste violence at Bhima Koregaon in 2018, though reports indicate police initiated the conflict. He was taken into custody in April 2020, after his anticipatory bail pleas were rejected.

Gautam Navlakha — Writer and human rights activist Navlakha was one of many writers and activists arrested for “inciting caste violence” in August 2018. He was released from house arrest in October 2018 but was again taken into custody in April 2020 and remains on trial.

Durai Guna, GunasekaranGuna, a Dalit rights writer-activist, was detained in September 2019 for putting up “defamatory” signs inviting replacements for apathetic government officials. He was arrested again in September 2020 for displaying satirical posters offering training to local officials.

Vernon Gonsalves — In August 2018, Gonsalves was arrested on politically motivated charges of incitement to violence along with other leftist writer-activists in a coordinated raid. He remains detained awaiting trial and his bail pleas are continually rejected.

Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy — In October 2019, police arrested Murthy on charges of treason and attempted murder based on allegations from 1994. This was believed to be because of his criticism of the BJP-government. He was granted bail on January 8, 2020, and acquitted of all charges on October 3, 2020.

Hany Babu — A professor of English literature and language, Babu faces charges of “propagating” communist activities, Maoist ideologies, and plotting anti-state attacks as part of the baseless Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad crackdown on numerous writers and intellectuals.

OV Digital Desk