Maharashtra : NCHRO deeply condemn use of draconian UAPA law to silence human rights defenders. Release activists from unjust imprison.
June 7, 2018
The National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), express their deepest concern at the unlawful arrest and detention of prominent social activists. Professor Shoma Sen – Head of the English Department in Nagpur University and a long time Dalit and women’s rights activist, Advocate Surendra Gadling – General Secretary of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL) who has been relentlessly fighting cases of human rights violations, Sudhir Dhawale – editor of the Marathi magazine Vidrohi and founder of the Republican Panther Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal , Rona Wilson – human rights activist and Secretary of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and Mahesh Raut – Anti-displacement activist working with Gram Sabhas and a former Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow – had their houses raided and were arrested from different locations in Nagpur, Bombay, and Delhi by the Maharashtra police. This was reportedly in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon agitation that took place in January 2018. All the five have been charged that they are spreading controversial pamphlets, delivering hate speeches and inciting communal tension.
All these five activists arrested now are actually serving society and humanity with focus on uplifting the Dalits and downtrodden. The State itself has used false, fake, malicious charges to harass them. Action against these well respected activists clearly shows that the present government is against Dalit assertion and the growing unity among Dalits, OBC and Minorities. Unprecedented violence broke out against Dalits who had congregated at Bhima Koregaon near Pune to pay tribute to Dalits, who were part of the British army which had fought against the Peshwas in 1818. Inaction in the face of violence was forgotten since the source of the violence was understood to be beyond control such as violence had been incited and unleashed on the Dalits by Sambhaji Bhinde, leader of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and Milind Ekbote of Hindu Ekta Aghadi. No concrete action was taken against the people like Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote who started spreading violence, despite strong evidences and witnesses against them.
However, the above named democratic rights activists, professors and lawyers were arrested on the baseless accusations, an absurd attempt to choke their human rights activism. The police also went on to claim that these activists were allegedly part of a “plot to kill” Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The timing of the arrests and a plan to systematically target activists echoes Hindutva forces do not accept the egalitarianism at the heart of democracy.The entire operation has been stage-managed keeping in mind to queer the pitch for the forthcoming elections in 2019. This is the latest front in the ruling party’s attempts to quell all political dissent, desperate to create a reign of terror in order to polarize the Dalit and bahujan votes.
Worryingly, we are seeing the use of UAPA as a tool to undermine the legitimate rights and freedoms of communities and rights holders, who are often from some of the most vulnerable groups in society. UAPA charges against human rights defenders serve only to criminalise their legitimate human rights work. Booking them under the draconian law, UAPA, made it very difficult for them to get bail. The aim here is not to convict them but to freeze their actions.
NCHRO strongly condemns the arrests of these eminent activists and demand that all arrested are to be released immediately and the cases against them withdrawn. We strongly condemns this open show of State terror and complete bypassing of the Rule of Law by the BJP governments in the State and the Centre and demands the release of Advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut forthwith. We urge the authorities to ensure detainees human rights, including access to a lawyer and the rights to a fair trial, to physical integrity and dignity, and to protection from harassment, criminalization. The NCHRO urges the government to uphold the rule of law and bring an end to the persecution of human rights defenders, which appears designed to silence public dialogue and stifle free expression.