Witch hunts Are Back — NCHRO Condemns Targeting Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha.
09 March 2020
The National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) is appalled that many human rights defenders,and other opposition voices are being criminalised and accused of unfounded charges. The witch hunt against Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha,two prominent human rights defenders are latest example of the Indian authorities abusing law and the justice system to silence peaceful activists and deter them from working for the defence of human rights in the country.
Anand Teltumbde, an eminent Dalit scholar, and Gautam Navlakha, a well-known human rights activist, were booked under the dreaded Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for being part of the Elgar Parishad, and for the alleged violence at the 200th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. Notably, neither was present at the programme.
There is clear evidence that commemorative programme of Battle of Bhima Koregaon was turned violent due to the attacks of Hindutwa groups.It is alleged that Hindutva activists Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote orchestrated the violence and roped in Hindutva ultras to create unrest. But as is the rule the real perpetrators of violence roams free while people who are not related with the event are victimised.
The tactics of repression are same as seen in other cases against social activists. The “broad and ill-defined charges” such as “plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and all other spicy ingredients are being peddled to incarcerate people. In a country where justice takes years to obtain, even though if victims are innocent, will lose four-five years of life in incarceration under UAPA. With the advent of new and more sophisticated technology, coupled with repressive laws, the state is advantaged in cooking up evidences.
After the new Maharashtra coalition government of the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress took charge in November 2019, there was hope that the coalition government would order an impartial inquiry into the case. But the case was suddenly taken over by NIA,which looks almost like a clever ploy of the state government.
When the national priority is – understandably – how to stop the spread of corona virus, treat the sick and tackle its social spread, the Supreme Court directs both Navlakha and Teltumbde to surrender within a week. The courts should be the final protection for the people from the arbitrary power of the executive. It is clear that government have gone wrong persecuting activists yet arbitrary arrests and detention, followed by bogus prosecutions, and even convictions in kangaroo courts continue.
Criminalization of dissent is one amongst the many strategies of silencing. It’s not a crime to work against exclusion, poverty, notion of purity or pollution and graded hierarchy. Ultimately, to curb this practice there needs to be a concerted effort on multiple fronts – the political, legal, institutional as well as societal.