On Friday, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted that he addressed the National University of Advanced Legal Studies in Kochi on “Dissent and Democracy”.
In Kochi today: addressed the National University of Advanced Legal Studies on “Dissent and Democracy”. Excellent questions from the students explored the line between freedom of speech & responsible governance. pic.twitter.com/qlkWKh3tPy
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 28, 2018
Considering the topic Tharoor spoke on, we were curious to know more about the event and what he said. Therefore, we visited the Facebook page of the institution for a video of his speech after finding no such luck with YouTube. However, as Tharoor says in his speech, he could not stay for the entire duration of the event due to other commitments. With permission from other panellists, he said that he would leave after delivering his address and taking a couple of questions.
Scrolling through the page further, we saw a post about the entire event. The description states that Shashi Tharoor delivered a special address while Advocate P.A. Pouran, Advocate Mathews J. Nedumpara and Dr Athira IPS were part of a panel discussion.
The event was further confirmed by a The New Indian Express report. The Express report states that the event was organized by the Centre for Human Rights and the NSS of NUALS and was attended by Advocates P.A. Pouran and Mathews J. Nedumpara.
Advocate P.A. Pouran is mentioned as leading People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), one of the organizations linked to the CDRO through its fraternal organization People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), has intricate links to Maoists. PUCL’s website lists Adv. Pouran as one of the office bearers of the organization for the state of Kerala. We have reported extensively on the intricate links between the CDRO and the Maoists.
It is pertinent to mention that the arrested activist Sudha Bharadwaj is associated to the PUCL as well and Gautam Navlakha, another among those arrested who had links with a notorious ISI funded Kashmiri separatist, is associated with PUDR, fraternal organization of PUCL. Shoma Sen, one of the ‘activists’ arrested in June in connection with the violence at Bhima Koregaon is a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), another fraternal organization of PUCL.
In November 2016, Pouran had called the killing of two Maoists in an encounter in Nilambur village, Kerala as ‘stage-managed murder’ and called it a cold-blooded murder by the Police. He went ahead and called the Maoists ‘patriots’. “No mother gives birth to a Maoist,” he told The Hindu. Quoting from The Hindu report:
At a time when patriotism was being tom-tommed by right-wing forces, Mr. Pouran said the Maoists, who stood by the downtrodden and fought for the Adivasis’ right to life, were the real patriots. “No mother gives birth to a Maoist,” he told The Hindu. “It is the brutal, exploitative circumstances in the country that give birth to such patriots who are concerned for other human beings.”
OpIndia.com had also conducted an exclusive interview with surrendered Naxal Pahad Singh who had slammed “jobless intellectuals” who fan the Maoists. He had asserted that this “fight” is not for Adivasi rights but for the genocide of Adivasis. He had named one of the arrested ‘activists’ Arun Ferreira and asserted that he was a member of the Rajya committee of CPI (Maoists).
Given the circumstances and the crackdown on ‘Urban Naxals’ by the government and considering the fact that Advocate P.A. Pouran has called Maoists ‘patriots’ in the past, it is disconcerting that a senior leader of the Congress party was part of an event that included him.
Even though he was not present for the entire duration, it does not bode well for the country if a senior leader of the main opposition party is associated with an event that included a person who believes Maoists are patriots. It should also be noted that Pouran is an office-bearer of an organization that is associated with the CDRO which allegedly has intricate links to Maoists.