Palghar lynching: I am not a missionary, says activist Shiraz Bulsara Prabhu

Updated: Apr 25, 2020, 07:45 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Activist Shiraz Bulsara Prabhu, troll target over Palghar lynching, slams personal attacks

Shiraz Bulsara Prabhu
Shiraz Bulsara Prabhu

Some names have been cropping up frequently in the frenzy of opinion associated with the Palghar lynching, resulting in the death of two sadhus and their driver. These are the names of the organisations active in the district, working on various issues of the adivasis.

The Kashtakari Sanghatana, a rights organisation, working in this area for nearly four decades is in sharp focus. Shiraz Bulsara Prabhu, an ex-activist of the Kashtakari Sanghatana is being targeted on social media, for allegedly trying to help those accused of lynching and get bail for them.

Prabhu, when contacted at her home in Dahanu, categorically stated, "I am not helping anybody get bail. I am not a lawyer. However, in our legal system every accused has a right to apply for bail."

Troll target

Slamming what she says are mischievous canards on social media, Prabhu added, "I am a consultant with the Tribal Development Department, for the government of Maharashtra. I strongly condemn what has happened, and in no way seek to condone the incident. I am of the opinion that the perpetrators must be brought to book."

Prabhu added that because of the deliberate communalisation of the Palghar incident, and efforts by certain forces to make political capital out of the tragic deaths of the sadhus, the police machinery has been forced into overdrive, resulting in the arrest of a large number of adivasis not involved in the killing.

Fear psychosis

"The perpetrators could have been identified from the CCTV and video footage and arrested, instead of this sweeping action," she said.

Fear psychosis pervaded the villages in the area, claimed Prabhu before the incident. She claimed that rumours were circulating on social media and in WhatsApp groups, that criminal elements in disguise are roaming in the villages to kidnap children and harvest their organs. Another rumour was that outsiders are entering the villages to spread COVID-19.

A large number of migrant workers have returned to the villages without wages because of the lockdown. "There is no work, desperation and frustration… it is a simmering cauldron," she said.

No missionary

The woman who is a St. Xaviers College, Mumbai alumnus, has been targeted in a vicious, personal attack. Prabhu said, "I am not a missionary, but yes, I am Left and I proudly claim all the work that I have done in the area for nearly three decades as an activist of a left mass organisation. I refuse to engage with trolls on social media, but would like to reiterate that the Kashtakari Sanghatana is a Left political organisation working on issues of tribal land, forest, wages, human rights, ration, pension, health, education…Yes we have been in the forefront of the struggle of the Forest Rights Act and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA)".

Church connection

Prabhu clarified that it is true that her husband was an ex-Jesuit priest but was expelled in 1981 because of his political activities. It is also true he changed his name from Peter to Pradip as he wanted to make a clean break from his missionary past.

"I denounce the terming of TISS as the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) of Mumbai. In the effort to muzzle free and liberal thought, a dangerous trend of branding, defaming and destroying esteemed educational institutions in the country has been set in motion in recent years. How long will we be mute spectators to the destruction of the temples of learning by the ignorant and the arrogant?" the activist, who has taught at TISS in the past, said.

She said age has taken its toll and she has had to reduce her activities in the tribal areas. "I have not engaged with those spreading malicious rumours on social media but am glad to put across my point of view. Thinking people, misled by those deliberately distorting contexts and manufacturing lies, may hopefully rethink," she finished.

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