Angered by the arrest of some publishers and editors over printing the late writer Babu Rajab Ali's poetry carrying caste-denoting words, 22 organisations of students, peasants, Dalit activists, writers, rationalists and agricultural labourers on Saturday threatened an agitation if the case was not dropped.
In a joint statement, the organisations said that they have taken serious note of the arrest of Amit Mittar of Tark Bharti Parkashan, Barnala, Ashok Garg of Sangam, Samana, and editors Jagjeet Singh Sahoke from Moga and Swatantar from Samana by the Punjab police on the directions of state government.
"The arrest is not an attack on freedom of two individuals but against each organisation, each pen, each writer, each columnist and each language," said the organisations, which included Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan, Krantikari and Dakaunda), Punjab Kisan Sabha, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Pendu Mazdoor Union, Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, Mazdoor Mukti Morcha, Pendu Mazdoor Union (Mishaal), Kirti Mazdoor Union, Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union, Dehati Mazdoor Sabha, Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR), Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, Punjab Sahit Sabha, Tarksheel Society, Bharat, Tarksheel Society, Punjab, Inqulabi Kender, Lok Morcha, Pragatisheel Istri Sabha, Panjab Lok Sabhiyacharak Manch and Radical People's Forum, Punjab.
They said these publishers are known for standing by the masses in struggles against anti-people policies of the government. "Everybody knows that these books were just reproduced… were written decades back. The entire classical poetry of early 20th century contains references to castes."
"We warn the state government to release the arrested publishers and editors; otherwise the reply of this act will be given on the roads like in the past," they said. arious publishers also condemned the arrests in a release issued from Jalandhar.
They demanded that cases filed against the publishers and editors under the SC/ST Act be cancelled. Signatories included Baba Bujha Singh Parkashan, Banga; Panj Aab Parkashan, Jalandhar; Dildeep Parkashan, Samrala; Balraj Sahni Parkashan, Bathinda; Jagriti Parkashan, Samrala; People's Forum, Bargarhi; Chetna Parkashan, Ludhiana, and Chintan Parkashan, Ludhiana. They said the publishers arrested were "progressive thought groups" who have been working for last many to spread revolutionary thoughts by publishing various books and magazines.
The publishers said that if anyone published old works containing traditional caste names, that did not mean that the publisher had the intention to hurt the feelings of any community.