Human Rights

Stop the Witchhunts and Release the Detained Activists, London Protesters Demand

LONDON: Members of Indian diaspora in UK have protested, Friday, 31 August, outside the Indian High Commission here against the arrests and harassment of academics activists, lawyers and human rights activists in different parts of India.

Displaying anti-Hindutva placards, they raised slogans against caste supremacy and Hindutva fanaticism in India. They demanded immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj (arrested from Faridabad), renowned writer Varavara Rao (arrested from Hyderabad), activists Arun Ferreira (who has incidentally written a book on his experience of being in prison for five years on false charges) Vernon Gonsalves (picked up from Mumbai)  and long-standing human rights campaigner Gautam Navlakha (who was arrested from his residence in Delhi but the High Court stayed his remand to Pune).

The protest was organised by South Asia Solidarity Group and CasteWatchUK. A joint statement issued by the organisers said, “The Modi government has unleashed a massive witchhunt against a whole range of dissenting voices targeting some of India’s most credible and respected human rights activists and public intellectuals, using trumped up charges and patently false allegations to try to silence all opposition and terrorise dissidents.”

It added, “In raids on 28 August across the country, a series of activists were arrested -noted Chhattishgarh-based trade union leader and tribal rights campaigner Sudha Bharadwaj (arrested from Faridabad), renowned writer Varavara Rao (arrested from Hyderabad),activists Arun Ferreira (who has incidentally written a book on his experience of being in prison for five years on false charges) and Vernon Gonsalves (picked up from Mumbai) and long-standing human rights campaigner Gautam Navlakha (who was arrested from his residence in Delhi but the High Court stayed his remand to Pune).

“Among those whose houses have been raided are Ranchi-based Father Stan Swamy (who has been opposing corporate landgrab and Hindutva violence in Jharkhand and has recently been charged with ‘sedition’), journalist Kranthi Tekula, lawyer Susan Abraham who is defending Surendra Gadling and others, Dalit writer and academic Anand Teltumbde, and Pavana and Prof. K. Satyanarayana (daughter and son-in-law of Varavara Rao). On 29 August, the Supreme Court responded to a petition filed on behalf of those arrested by ruling that they should not be kept in police custody but under house arrest until September 6, noting that ‘Dissent is the safety-valve of democracy’.

“The BJP-led Maharashtra Government and the Pune Police are using the Bhima Koregaon violence of January 1 as the pretext for planning this witchhunt. The year 2018 started with violence against Dalits in Bhima Koregaon when thousands of Dalits gathered there in a commemoration of a historic victory. Hindutva thugs with saffron flags in hand attacked the Dalits. The main masterminds behind the Bhima Korgaon anti-Dalit atrocity are Shambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote. Both of them are closely connected with the BJP. Shambhaji Bhide is the founder of the Shivpratisthan Sangstha, which has incited several communal riots in Maharashtra. Both of them are roaming free while human rights and Dalit rights activists are being targeted.

“The human rights movement which emerged out of the experience of resistance to the 1975-77 “Emergency is today being branded as an ‘Urban Naxal’ project. An actual incident of anti-Dalit violence is being manipulated to persecute Dalit rights activists. While Hindutva terrorist organisations like Sanatan Sanstha are enjoying full impunity to openly threaten people and call for overturning the Constitution, lawyers, writers, poets and public intellectuals have been framed with outlandish charges of plotting an assassination of the Prime Minister, in a move with striking parallels with the history of Nazi Germany.

“The fact that as K. Pavana and Prof. K. Satyanarayanan have testified, the police raiders asked questions like ‘Why do you read books by Mao and Marx?’ ‘Why do you have pictures of Ambedkar and Phule and not of gods and goddesses?’ and ‘Why do you not wear jewellery and sindoor as a wife?’ indicates what are now considered ‘crimes’ in Modi’s India.

“These raids and arrests, the slapping of sedition charges and the invoking of draconian laws like UAPA are all aimed at reducing India to a republic of fear. The Indian state is doing this in partnership with the organized lynch mobs murdering Muslims and Dalits on a daily basis and the hired assassins being deployed to kill dissidents. The assassinations of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, the failed attempt on the life of Umar Khalid, repeated attacks on Swami Agnivesh and the continuing persecution of human rights campaigners are all part of the same strategy of silencing dissent and subordinating democracy to a fascist regime of fear and repression, hate and lies.

“But resistance is growing and in response to this new spate of attacks on activists, lawyers and writers who have always fought for the oppressed and marginalized, the people have come onto the streets to demand their unconditional release in protests in cities across India.”

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