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India: Rights activists and intellectuals under assault - police raids and arrests of Aug 2018- links to reports and statements by concerned citizens & groups

28 August

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A complication of useful reports, commentary and public statements regarding raids and arrests [in August 2018] across India on the homes of activists and public intellectuals

sacw.net - 28 August 2018 [updated: 27 October 2018]

India: A swoopdown on people who sympathetically wrote about or raised questions of people’s rights - A compilation of select materials (August 28 - 27 Oct 2018 ...)

Contents:

1. SELECT NEWS REPORTS & COMMENTARY
2. PRESS CONFERENCES / STATEMENT BY PETITIONERS WHO TOOK UP LEGAL DEFENSE OF THE PEOPLE ARRESTED (30 Aug 2018 & 28 Sept 2018)
+ Joint Statement Against Continuing Arrests (30 Aug 2018) + Video recording
3. STATEMENTS FROM CONCERNED CITIZENS
4. STATEMENTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS
5. STATEMENTS FROM TRADE UNIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
6. STATEMENTS BY SOME POLITICAL PARTIES:

1.

SELECT NEWS REPORTS & COMMENTARY
(28 August 2018 on - updated 30 Sept 2018)

  • Twist in the Tale: Maharashtra Police Press Conference on August 31 on Nationwide Raids and Arrests Three Days Earlier by Sukla Sen http://sacw.net/article13895.html

2.

PRESS CONFERENCES & STATEMENTS BY PETITIONERS WHO TOOK UP LEGAL DEFENSE OF THE PEOPLE ARRESTED

Press Conference on crackdown on rights activists - 30 August 2018

In the wake of the recent shocking spate of arbitrary arrests of 5 rights activists and under the draconian UAPA, and raids on the premises of 5 others by the Maharashtra Police on 28 August 2018, PUDR, PUCL and WSS invite you to attend a press conference on 30 August 2018, Thursday at the Press Club (Raisina Road) at 4 pm.

The conference will be addressed by

  • Aruna Roy, MKSS
  • Arundhati Roy, author
  • Bezwada Wilson, Safai Karamchari Andolan Harish Dhawan, PUDR
  • Kalyani Menon-Sen, WSS
  • N. D. Pancholi, PUCL Prashant Bhushan, Advocate Sanjay Parikh, PUCL
  • Please send a representative from your organization to cover the press conference.

Yours sincerely

Sharmila Purkayastha and Shahana Bhattacharya, Secretaries PUDR Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary, PUCL, Priya Pillai, WSS

Joint Statement Against Continuing Arrests of Rights Activists (New Delhi, 30th August 2018) http://www.sacw.net/article13881.html

Video of the press conference of 30th August 2018 :

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Press Conference held on the Bhima Koregaon Case by Petitioners and Lawyers at Press Club, Raisina Road, New Delhi, 28th Sept 2018 4:00 pm

see: Bhima Koregaon: A Protest and a Press Conference (The Citizen, 29 Sept 2018) https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/15125/Bhima-Koregaon-A-Protest-and-a-Press-Conference

Senior advocate Indira Jaising explains the Bhima Koregaon judgment by the Supreme Court of India on 28 Sept 2018

India: Press Statement by Five Petitioners in Romila Thapar & Others Vs. Union of India & Others in The Supreme Court of India | 28 September 2018 http://www.sacw.net/article13951.html

India: Bhima-Koregaon Case - PUDR Press release on the Supreme Court’s Verdict on the Arrest of 5 Activists | 1 Oct 2018 http://sacw.net/article13947.html

3.

STATEMENTS FROM CONCERNED CITIZENS

Joint Statement condemning arrest of activists and public intellectuals

We, the undersigned, are shocked by the serial raids across the country on the homes of activists and public intellectuals who are critical of the government and the ruling party at the Centre. The arrests of prominent activists and intellectuals Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Kranthi Tekula and others, are nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those who are fighting for justice for the marginalised. This is also an attempt by the BJP to invent a false enemy and engage in scaremongering in order to polarise the 2019 elections in its favour. Already, the government and the media houses close to the BJP have been trying to spin a false narrative of a Maoist conspiracy since June, 2018. Terms like “urban naxals” are invented in order to stifle any criticism of the government. We have learnt that the Delhi Police, after having arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, waited for Republic TV to arrive before taking her to the court. This simply shows that the arrests are incomplete without the accompanying sensationalist media propaganda to demonise activists, human rights defenders and intellectuals.

The so-called raids carried out on the houses of these activists are aimed at creating a spectacle, as the writings and views of these intellectuals are already publicly known and are well documented. This seems like a conspiracy to divert attention from the gravity of the Sanatan Sanstha conspiracy to carry out serial bomb attacks on Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi! The same Sanatan Sanstha was also involved in the murder of Gauri Lankesh, as per the ongoing investigations by Karnataka police. Today’s arrests have been carried out in order to give cover to the murderers of Gauri Lankesh. People like Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and others who have been arrested are friends of the people who have dedicated their entire lives to the betterment of the Indian public. By arresting them, the BJP is only exposing its insecurities and its intolerance to any dissent or criticism of its policies.

The arrests should be seen in continuation with the recent attacks on pro-justice voices such as Swami Agnivesh, Umar Khalid and many other student activists from Delhi to Lucknow. A BJP lawmaker from Karnataka even advocated the murder of “intellectuals.” Both the arrests and the physical attacks on justice loving people must be seen in a series of attempts to stifle dissent and deny social justice.

We demand immediate release of the arrested individuals, dropping of all false and malicious charges, as these arrests are politically motivated and unjustified.

  • Shehla Rashid Shora, former Vice-President, JNU Students’ Union.
  • Mohit Pandey, former President, JNU Students’ Union.
  • Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Author, Journalist, Publisher.
  • Neha Dixit, Journalist.
  • Jignesh Mevani, MLA Vadgam, Gujarat.
  • Sanam Sutirath Wazir, Human Rights Activist.
  • Nakul Singh Sawhney, Documentary Filmmaker.
  • Teesta Setalvad, Journalist and Social Activist.
  • Harish Iyer, Equal Rights Activist.
  • Swami Agnivesh, Arya Samaj, Social Activist.
  • Admiral L Ramdas
  • Lalita Ramdas
  • Shabnam Hashmi
  • Mirza Saaib Bég, lawyer, former President, NALSAR Student Bar Council
  • Kamal shukla, Chattisgarh
  • Hussain Indorewala, Mumbai
  • Shinzani Jain, Student, Ambedkar University Delhi
  • Geeta Seshu, Independent Journalist, Mumbai
  • Sandeep Vaidya, Dublin, Ireland
  • Dolphy D’souza, Police Reforms Watch

[To sign go here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdcqYRenW6NDMXkWMTo5zCjsW45ALeWu-CVKb0JDYyFc-xvKg/viewform ]

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Indianculturalforum.in

28 August,2018

Statement from the Indian Cultural Forum

“We stand in solidarity with all those who speak for our fellow citizens’ rights.”

In a dangerous move for Indian democracy, several human rights activists have been taken into police custody.

Who are some of these alleged “conspirators” who have either been taken into custody or had their homes searched? Sudha Bhardwaj is an advocate and the national secretary for People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). Father Stan Swamy is an active campaigner against communalism in Jharkhand. Arun Ferreira is an activist who has also written on issues such as casteism, communalism and economic inequality. Varavara Rao is a Marxist writer and teacher of Telugu literature. Gautam Navlakha is a civil rights activist, journalist and writer. Anand Teltumbde is a respected writer, civil rights activist and political analyst. K. Sathyanarayana is a professor a dalit studies scholar.

Their crimes? Insisting on human rights, writing, analysing, teaching, giving voice to dissent against injustice and inequality.

This too at a time when the investigation into the assassination of Gauri Lankesh, MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar has revealed bombs, guns, camps for arms training, hit lists and plans for what can rightly be called “criminal conspiracy” to use violence to kill, crush diversity and dissent, undo the Constitution, and the India it promises all of us.

We condemn this attempt to distract the public from this real conspiracy with a fabricated one. We condemn the crushing of dissent. We stand in solidarity with all those who speak for our fellow citizens’ rights.

For the Indian Cultural Forum

  • Nayantara Sahgal
  • Romila Thapar
  • Arundhati Roy
  • K. Satchidanandan
  • Githa Hariharan
  • Keki Daruwalla
  • Bezwada Wilson
  • Ganesh Devy
  • Mallika Sarabhai
  • T M Krishna
  • Volga
  • Vijay Prashad
  • Om Thanvi
  • Rahamath Tarikere
  • Gauhar Raza
  • Sridala Swami
  • E V Ramakrishnan
  • K Srilata
  • Vidya Rao
  • Susmit Panda
  • Souradeep Roy
  • Sneha Chowdhury
  • Kothari
  • Ananya Vajpeyi
  • Kalpana Karunakaran
  • Apoorvanand
  • Paul Zacharia
  • Mangalesh Dabral

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Full text: Nearly 190 IIT Kanpur faculty, alumni demand release of Sudha Bharadwaj, other activists https://scroll.in/latest/893832/full-text-nearly-190-iit-kanpur-faculty-alumni-demand-release-of-sudha-bharadwaj-other-activists

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9 Members of the European Parliament say Suspend Agreements with India Until the Human Right Activists are Released http://sacw.net/article13919.html

4.

STATEMENTS FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS

Statement from Human Rights Forum (HRF)

Press Release

28-8-2018

Hyderabad

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) unequivocally condemns the arrests of social activists and leftist intellectuals including Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao and several others by the Pune police today. The arrests are part of a clear design to lock down on democratic dissent, undermine free speech and create a climate of fear. This is quite alarming.
These arrests as well as the raids on the homes of a total of nine persons in Delhi, Ranchi, Bombay and Hyderabad are plainly intended to persecute dissenters and those critiquing rights violations by governments. They are based on utterly vague and numerous flimsy and sweeping accusations. According to information available, the highly undemocratic legislation - the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 is being invoked against those arrested. The UAPA is a draconian statute that is in open contempt of fundamental political freedoms and should not have any place in a civilised society. It affords free rein to the police to target and harass virtually anyone they wish to. It allows presumption of guilt, and alleged ‘intention’ to commit crimes to become the basis of arrests, incarceration, and prolonged denial of bail.

These raids and arrests are part of a concerted onslaught by the State to clamp down on politics that is inconvenient to the ruling dispensation.
Slapping the label Maoist has become the routine option for the State to crack down on dissent. The ‘discovery’ of incriminating Maoist literature/letters is of a piece with this dubious strategy.

The real intent is to criminalise the democratic activity of these activists, harass them and ensure their extended incarceration. We demand the immediate dropping of the spurious charges against all those arrested and their unconditional release.

S Jeevan Kumar (HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee member)
VS Krishna (HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee member)

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Amnesty International India

Bangalore/Delhi: 28 August 2018 7:05 pm

Crackdown On Activists Cannot Become The Order Of The Day

The nationwide crackdown on activists, advocates and human rights defenders is disturbing and threatens core human rights values, Amnesty International India and Oxfam India today said jointly in response to the massive crackdown on rights activists in the country by the Maharashtra state police.

“Today’s arrests is the second of such crackdowns on rights activists, advocates and journalists who have been critical of the state. All these people have history of working to protect the rights of some of India’s most poor and marginalized people. Their arrests raise disturbing questions about whether they are being targeted for their activism,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.

“These arrests cannot become the order of the day. The government should protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear,” said Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India.

According to media reports, the Maharashtra state police have arrested Chhattisgarh-based human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, Maharashtra-based social activist Vernon Gonsalves, former secretary of People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) Gautam Navlakha, Maharashtra-based activist Arun Ferreira, and Telangana journalist Varavara Rao. The premises of several other activists like Anand Tetlumbde and Father Stan Swamy were also raided.

In June this year, five activists were arrested on the suspicion of inciting caste-based violence on 1 January in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra. Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and several sections of the Indian Penal Code.

For more information please contact:

Smriti Singh
Email: smriti.singh[at]amnesty.org.in
Phone: 080 493 88 000

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Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL)

Press Statement: 28th August 2018

PUCL STRONGLY CONDEMNS AND DENOUNCES THE ARRESTS UNDER THE DRACONIAN UAPA OF:

1. Sudha Bharadwaj, PUCL National Secretary
2. Gautam Navalakha of PUDR,
3. Prof. Anand Teltumde of CPDR,
4. Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, advocates, and
5. Vara Vara Rao, noted poet and rights activist.

PUCL also denounces the simultaneous multi-city raids conducted today, 28th August 2018 in a concerted and pre-meditated manner across the country at the premises of other eminent human rights activists including:

  • Father Stan Swamy in Jharkhand;
  • Senior Writer and Poet Varavara Rao, as also the houses of his two daughters and sons-in-law, Anala and the Hindu journalist KV Kumaranath; and Pavana and her husband, Prof. Satyanarayana, of English and Foreign Languages University;
  • Namaste Telangana journalist Kranthi Tekula in Hyerabad;
  • Anand Teltumbde in Goa;
  • Gautam Navlakha in Delhi,
  • Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Susan Abraham, Advocates in Mumbai.

PUCL asserts that the arrests and raids are nothing but a targetted crackdown and attack by the police and state on civil liberties and democratic rights activists across the country in a concerted attempt to crush human rights interventions and silence voices of dissent;

Such systematic and pre-meditated crackdown on human rights activists is unprecedented and unheard of in a democracy and PUCL strongly condemns this unconstitutional crackdown by the state and police ;

PUCL stands firmly in solidarity with advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, National Secretary, PUCL and the other human rights activists who face raids and have been arrested under false and fabricated charges.

We would like to point out that in a Habeas Corpus petition filed before the Delhi High Court, his transfer on transit warrant to Pune has been stayed pending further hearing of the habeas corpus petition tomorrow 29th August, and he is currently under house arrest. As per sources, Anand Teltumbde’s house in Goa was raided by the police in a completely illegal manner, in his absence, after procuring keys from the security guard. While some news channels state that the raids and arrest have been made in the Pune case of Bhima Koregaon caste violence, where the prime accused are Hindutva right wing groups and leaders who are enjoying state impunity and at large, some other news agencies are alleging that the arrests are linked to claims of alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

It is pertinent to note that just last month on 4th July 2018, a scurrilous, motivated, fabricated and malicious media propaganda and hate campaign was run by Republic TV and its anchor Ms. Shivani Gupta, Deputy Editor Mr. Shrawan Sen and its Managing Director, Mr. Arnab Goswami, by way of a series of programmes presented as “Super Exclusive Breaking News” and also showcased by way of a national debate on Prime Time TV. Relying on a fabricated letter allegedly addressed by her to a Maoist named ‘Comrade Prakash’, the channel repeatedly aired, completely false, unsubstantiated and scurrilous accusations against Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, falsely profiling her as “Urban Naxal”. The allegations were categorically denied by Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj in her rebuttal statement. The programmes were aired with headers of“#UrbanNaxalsExposed” and similar allegations were made against other human rights activists like Mr. Gautam Navlakha in part 2 of the programme, via a second letter supposedly procured by the Channel. PUCL has previously issued a statement dated 7th July 2018 strongly condemning the incident and demanding strict action against the Channel. Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj also issued a legal notice in respect of the Channel’s illegal acts.

The current arresta and raids are taking place in the backdrop of the arrests of five human rights activists – Advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale – who were also arrested under UAPA on 6th June 2018, relying on a similar fabricated letter produced by Republic TV allegedly addressed to the same "Comrade Prakash", in the same Pune case. Following this, on 7th June 2018, Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj had addressed a press conference organized by the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) in New Delhi to condemn the arrest of Advocate Surendra Gadling of the Nagpur High Court. Susan Abraham, Arun Fererreia and Vernon Gonsalves are in fact representing the Bhima Koregaon accused in Court.

Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj has been a dedicated trade unionist for more than three decades and has served as a general secretary of its Chhattisgarh branch, during which time the branch did remarkable work in the State. She is also associated with the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, which was founded by the late Shankar Guha Niyogi. She started her legal practice in the year 2000 and has since, fought innumerable cases of workers, farmers, adivasis and poor people in the fields of labour, land acquisition, forest rights and environmental rights. Since the year 2007, she has been practicing in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur and was nominated by the High Court to be a member of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority. She also supported young lawyers to set up the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group as a civil society initiative to provide legal aid to incarcerated Tribals. She is a visiting faculty at the National Law University Delhi, where she teaches the course on tribal rights and land acquisition.

PUCL believes that the intention of the state and police in targeting the aforesaid human rights activists by foisting false and fabricated cases against them, is clear and apparent from their profiles of work. All the aforesaid human rights activists targeted in this multi-city “operation” by the police have been tirelessly involved in advocating the cause and fighting for the rights of the most poor, marginalized sections of society against serious state violations and unscrupulous corporates. They have stood for the principles of human rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the international standards on human rights.

PUCL strongly condemns the actions of the state and police. This simultaneous crackdown against human rights activists across the country signals the imposition of an unofficial Emergency in our nation and is a direct attack on Indian democracy. This is a deliberate strategy of the state to target noted human rights activists in a clear act of reprisals against them for calling out the human rights violations by the state and police, and to intimidate those who are fighting for justice.

PUCL cautions the public at large on the concerted efforts underway to stifle voices of dissent and threaten the democratic fabric of the country.

In light of the above, PUCL makes the following urgent demands:

1. PUCL calls upon the state and the police to immediately and unconditionally release human rights activists, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navalakha, Anand Teltumbde, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, and Vernon Gonsalves and withdraw the false and fabricated case against them;

2. PUCL calls upon the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to urgently intervene to ensure the release of the human rights activists and to order an immediate, transparent, effective and impartial investigation into the simultaneous multi-city raids and arrests of the human rights activists by the state and the policeon false and fabricated accusations and charges ;

3. PUCL also calls upon the democratic minded citizens of India to condemn the unprincipled manner in which human rights activists are being targeted and oppose such insidious and collusive attempts by State agencies and media outfits to silence human rights activists against the vindictive State policies and action ;

4. PUCL further condemns the constant profiling as “Urban Naxals/ Maoists” and criminalisation of human rights activists working tirelessly against the state’s anti-people actions and policies, in an attempt to malign them and influence public sentiment.

Mr. Ravi Kiran Jain, National President, PUCL; Dr. V. Suresh, National General Secretary, PUCL

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Text of Statement from PEN Delhi and PEN South Asia

August 29, 2018

A Dark Day for Democracy and Freedom of Expression

PEN Delhi and PEN South India join large numbers of Indian citizens in unequivocally condemning the arrests and searches conducted on the homes of human rights activists, writers and thinkers on the 28th of August. Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer and rights activist, known for her work with tribal and women’s rights, P Varavara Rao, poet, activist and teacher, Gautam Navlakha, journalist, writer and human rights activist were arrested suddenly, with extensive searches being conducted on their homes and with material such as laptops, books and notes being confiscated. Vernon Gonsalves, activist, and Arun Ferreira, activist, writer and cartoonist, were also arrested. Other activists and intellectuals, including Anand Teltumbde, K Satyanarayana, KV Kurmanath and Father Stan Swamy had their homes searched. These intellectuals and activists have consistently spoken out on behalf of the poor and marginalized, and have used their writings in the service of human rights. It is a dark day for India when crackdowns and arrests target those who fight for human rights, while murderers such as those who killed journalists, thinkers and writers, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh are yet to be convicted. Pen Delhi and Pen South India stand in solidarity with the activists and writers and their right to freedom of thought and expression.

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Statement by WSS

Fascism at our doorstep

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) Condemns Arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao. WSS strongly condemns targeted attack on democratic rights activists, blatantly retributive actions of Maharashtra Police and demands immediate and unconditional release of all arrested activists, lawyers, writers and journalists.

Convenors Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin and Shalini;
Email ID againstsexualviolence[at]gmail.com

WSS strongly condemns the arrests of its member Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, and the raids at the homes of Father Stan Swamy, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, Prof. K. Satyanarayana, Pavana, Anala, Kurmanath, Kranti Tekula and others conducted by the Maharashtra police along with the state police of Telangana, Jharkhand, Goa and Delhi. These searches and arrests are a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the spine chilling revelations about Hindu Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti in connection to the assassinations and bomb terror which they have been masterminding.

On the 28th of August, in a coordinated operation, days before the 90 day period for judicial custody period of the five arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case end, several well known academics, lawyers, writers, poets, priests and journalists have been arrested and their homes raided by the police. Just under three months following the arrests of Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut, the Maharashtra police appear to be persistently cracking down on all voices that have stood in solidarity with them. This coordinated effort to harass and malign human rights activists all over the country is intended solely to create a sense of terror amidst the democratic people of this country and must be seen as a war against democracy. Despite the fact that no incriminating evidence has emerged in these cases, with no respect or regard for the law, the police continues to arbitrarily arrest and detain activists, lawyers, writers and professionals who have dedicated their lives to ensure that justice is served where it is due.

Following orders sent by the Swargate police station in Pune, all of those targeted through raids and arrests today have the following charges against them – IPC Section 153, 505, 117,120B; UAPA Sections 13, 16, 18, 18b, 20, 38, 39, 40. These charges include promoting enmity between people, public mischief, abetting commission of offences, criminal conspiracy, unlawful activities, terrorist acts, raising funds for terrorist acts, recruiting for terrorist acts, being members of terrorist organisations, support for terrorist organisations and providing funds for terrorist organisations. With these charges, the police are making all efforts to brand democratic activists as ‘terrorists’ and ensure that they are kept in custody for extended periods of time. It is well known that the use of draconian laws like UAPA in cases, when contested in court, invariably fall apart. But the time spent by those charged under these laws is meant as a punishment even if they are eventually acquitted of all charges. Thus, the tactics of the police force is clear. It is meant, now, not merely to spread a sense of fear amongst all those who oppose its brutal ways but as retribution for daring to speak out.

Sudha Bharadwaj, who is a WSS member, is a lawyer and trade unionist who has been tirelessly advocating for the rights of workers, adivasi communities and other marginalised groups for the last three decades in Chhattisgarh. Since 1986, she has been working with the labour movement in Chattisgarh that grew out of the work of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, advocating for the rights of workers in the mining belt of Bhilai and other areas. Sudha is also a part of a legal organisation called Janhit which takes up cases of illegal land acquisition, violations of forest rights and environmental issues. Janhit has supported democratic movements like Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, which takes on issues of forced evictions, movements in Sarguja fighting against violations of laws like the Forest Rights Act and Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA), etc. Apart from the scores of cases she has fought for workers across the state, Sudha has also argued cases of human rights violations against Adivasi communities in the Chhattisgarh High Court. She has extended her support to different democratic groups working for constitutional rights such as the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which she represents currently as its National Chairperson, the Indian Association of Peoples Lawyers (IAPL). She is also a visiting professor at the National Law University, Delhi.

Sudha Bharadwaj has been facing harassment since June’18 when Republic TV produced a fabricated letter charging her of unlawful and terrorist activities along with Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha. In July this year, Father Stan Swamy and 19 activists, writers, and professionals were charged with sedition by the Jharkhand police. Today in early morning raids across the country, the Maharashtra police have simultaneously targeted the homes of all these human rights activists, seized all electronic devices, including Sudha and her daughter’s phones, laptops, pen drives, and password to social media accounts, and diaries with empty pages - raising concerns of potential police tampering and fabrication of evidence. Father Stan Swamy had to endure hours of questioning along with raids where they seized his phone, laptop and all electronic items they found at his residence. Gautam Navlakha was taken to Saket court, where the division bench of Delhi High Court has stayed his transit remand to Pune. The irony of holding Gautam Navlakha under UAPA is not lost on us, as he has been outspoken about the draconian and undemocratic nature of UAPA, and earlier POTA, TADA. Varavara Rao’s home in Hyderabad was ransacked by an extraordinarily large contingent of police that gheraoed his apartment complex and deliberately created panic amongst the residents. His daughters and sons-in-law Pavana and K. Satyanarayana, and Anala and Kurmanath’s homes were also raided, as was the home of journalist Kranti Tekula. Dr. Anand Teltumbde’s home in Goa was searched in his absence after taking the key from the guard outside raising alarms about potential fabrication and planting of evidence as well as clearly indicating trespass on private property.

Vernon Gonsalves’ family, including partner Susan Abraham, clearly stated that they have no idea why he has been arrested as no reasons were given. Arun Ferreira has also been picked up from his home in Thane by the Mumbai police in the afternoon after being interrogated all morning. All of them are expected to be taken to Pune to the Vishrambagh police station. It is crucial to note that Arun Ferreira and Susan Abraham were representing the five arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. By arresting the lawyers of the five arrested in June, the police has essentially crushed the judicial process and further vitiated the environment of fear.

All this continues while those responsible for the violence at the traditional Bhima-Koregaon celebrations are not only roaming scot free, but also enjoying the utmost support of those in power. The Hindu Sanathan Sanstha, Milind Ekbote and Sambaji Bhide are being treated like royalty and mass murderers are being garlanded by ministers, while those carrying on Ambedkar’s fight for justice and protecting constitutional values of Liberty, equality and fraternity are being arrested as a ’threat to national security’ and for spreading ’ disaffection in society’!

This repression, along with the terror unleashed in Maharashtra after Bhima Koregaon and in many states after the 2 April protests, not only reveals the anti-dalit nature of the State, but it also makes clear that creating a sense of terror and helplessness amongst the democratic people of this country is the primary intention of the Maharashtra police. In this open assault on democratic people of this country, the police force – both state and central – have played the role of agents of terror instead of upholding the law. The Modi-Shah regime has brought fascism to our doorsteps. The arrests of well known democratic rights activists from across the country, with the police trawling for any and all persons it considers a threat, is particularly targeting activists who have stood resolutely by the dalits, adivasis, Muslims, and worked all their lives for the betterment of marginalised sections of the country, in line with a true democratic spirit. This is meant to strike terror amongst the vast majority of people who have been daring to speak out against the anti-people policies of the state – be it opposing land acquisition, against relentless loot of resources, displacement and brutal violence committed by the security forces against the people of this country and standing tall in the face of Brahmanical fascism in all its forms. By using terms like ‘Urban Maoists’ for democratic rights activists, the police working with the BJP and RSS makes an effort to malign and isolate those raising uncomfortable questions while shielding right wing leaders like Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide despite all evidence. Today, we are faced with the challenge of standing united against a ruthless state apparatus that abuses the law to its own ends. The use of several sections of IPC and UAPA reveals the desperation of the state to project intellectuals, activists, lawyers, writers and journalists as criminals. The BJP-RSS machinery uses the institutions of the state to serve its own ends while blatantly trampling on democratic principles. The retributive nature of the Maharashtra police is an extension of this policy that can only be termed fascism. We are now living under a state of emergency.

Laws like UAPA have no place in a democratic country. The law has been routinely used to suppress dissent and disagreement with those in power. Such laws give the state and its apparatus undue power to define and brand people as “terrorists” at will. Such a branding is not just arbitrary but also is an abuse of power and vindictive. In times when the “terrorists” have come to find an image and identity in our mind, such actions by the government are ways of branding and defaming people. Additionally the same charges seem to be conspicuously missing when people are killed and maimed in the name of cow “protection”.

It is up to us to fight back and reclaim our democratic space in this country. The arrest of Professor Shoma Sen, the harassment of Professor GN Saibaba’s partner Vasantha, the harassment and now arrest of Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, three of our members who have been working across the states of Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, to expose instances of sexual violence and abuse by the police and right wing agents are now finding themselves facing the might of the state. In light of these arrests of democratic rights activists, WSS is determined to remain united and fight back against this assault on our democratic rights with unwavering conviction and resolve. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.

We appeal to all citizens to rise as one and defend the country against the current decimation of the Rule of Law and the terror being unleashed by the State against its people.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

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Statement from SAHMAT Condemning Arrest of Activists
http://www.sacw.net/article13878.html

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Statement by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism against arrest of five Intellectuals and Activists on 28 August, 2018 http://www.sacw.net/article13880.html

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Jharkhand’s civil society condemns recent raids on Stan Swamy and other human rights activists http://www.sacw.net/article13883.html

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India: 5 More Rights Activists Detained | Stop Prosecuting Dissent; Repeal Abusive Counterterrorism Law - Press Release by Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/30/india-5-more-rights-activists-detained

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Statement by Anand Teltumbde on the Police Acton against him on 28 August 2018 http://www.sacw.net/article13879.html

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“Case against me is nothing but an absolute fabrication” - Full Statement by Stan Swamy http://sacw.net/article13893.html

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Release the wrongfully arrested activists: Full text of petition filed by Romila Thapar and others https://scroll.in/article/892151/this-timely-novel-explores-a-dystopian-asian-future-the-result-of-interference-with-nature

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Notice from NHRC [The Official National Human Rights Commission]

5.

STATEMENTS FROM TRADE UNIONS & SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

NTUI Statement

Immediately Stop the Unlawful Arrest of Trade Unionists and Human Rights Defenders 28 August 2018: The New Trade Union Initiative condemns the arbitrary raiding of residences of human rights activists and their arrest in a parallel operation across the country by the Maharashtra police. The Pune police has raided the residences of human rights defenders and trade union activists in Ranchi, Delhi, Goa, Mumbai and Hyderabad and arrested Comrade Sudha Bharadwaj from her Delhi residence and confiscated her phone, computer and other electronic devices, books, periodicals. The raids and arrests are all connected to Case number 4/18 registered by Vishrambaug police station in Pune linking them to the Bhima Koregaon incident.

Comrade Sudha Bharadwaj, advocate and leader of the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh and Jan Aadharit Engineering Mazdoor Union, have been arrested from her Delhi residence this morning for her alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon incident under sections 153(a), 505 (1)(b), 117, 120(b), 34 of the IPC and sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18(b), 19, 20, 38, 39, 40 of the UAPA. Sudha has been under attack recently as part of an ongoing campaign both in government and through regressive forces in civil society to create an atmosphere of fear amongst those speaking up and standing against the attack on democracy, justice and equality.

This is the second round of arrests that the government has conducted in connection to the Bhima Koregaon attacks of human rights defenders. In the first round the Pune police had arrested 5 activists. None of these activists have been given bail. While on the other hand, leaders of two right-wing organisations identified as the prime provocateurs of the original attack on the dalits, Manohar aka Shambhaji Bhide or ‘Bhide Gurji’ of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and Milind Ekbote of the Hindu Ekta (Aaghadi) Manch, though were booked by the Pune Police for inciting violence and under provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, have been released on bail.

The definitive politicisation of Dalits against the Hindutva agenda of the BJP and its allies, particularly after the Una violence in Gujarat, has been a cause of serious concern for the BJP government at the centre which is preparing for election. This concerted attack against all democratic and progressive forces shows that the BJP government at the centre is nervous and is lashing out at all voices of dissent.

The NTUI joins with all progressive forces in fighting this attack as it stands in solidarity with Comrade Sudha Bharadwaj and the members of the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh and Jan Aadharit Engineering Mazdoor Union who continue to face the gravest attack on their rights and workers and citizens.

This is our common fight and a fight we must win.

N Vasudevan
President

New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)
B-137, First Floor, Dayanand Colony,
Lajpat Nagar IV,
New Delhi 110024
Telephone: +91 11 26214538
Telephone/ Fax: +91 11 26486931
Email: secretariat[at]ntui.org.in
Website: http://ntui.org.in

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Statement released by MAZDOOR KISAN SHAKTI SANGATHAN (MKSS)

We condemn the mala fide allegations and the coercive use of state power, in the arrest/raids of Sudha Bharadwaj; Gautam Navlakha; Anand Teltumbde; Father Stan Swamy; Varavara Rao, senior activists Arun Ferreira & Susan Abraham

READ FULL STATEMENT (in English and Hindi)

India: Release Them Now - Text of Statement by MKSS in support of Human rights defenders facing arrest and raids
29 August 2018

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NCDHR Press Release on raids and arbitrary arrests of Human Rights Defenders in New Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Hyderabad and Ranchi by personnel of Maharashtra Police http://www.sacw.net/article13884.html

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Citizens of New Delhi protest against brazen arrest of human rights activists by Maharashtra Police - Press release by NAPM http://www.sacw.net/article13886.html

6.

STATEMENTS BY SOME POLITICAL PARTIES:

Statement by CPI(M)

Stop This Repression

Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly protests the raids conducted by police authorities on the homes of various civil rights and human rights activists and Left intellectuals.

These raids in Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi, Goa and Hyderabad have led to the arrests of some of the activists like Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha. The police have also taken away laptops, mobiles and other personal papers from the homes of those raided.

Ever since the Bhima Koregoan violence against Dalits, the Maharashtra Police along with central agencies have been targeting dalit rights activists and lawyers who have been taking up their cases. False charges have been levelled and the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act invoked.

These constitute a brazen attack on democratic rights and civil liberties. The Polit Bureau demands the withdrawal of the cases against these activists and their immediate release.

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29 August 2018

Press Release

Arrest and Prosecute Sambhaji Bhide and Release Intellectuals/Activists

The action of Pune police arresting a number of progressive intellectuals and human rights activists in various parts of the country is highly condemnable. The world knows that the violence perpetrated on thousands of Dalit men and women on 1st Jan. 2018 in Bhima-Koregaon, Maharashtra, was planned and wickedly executed by certain ’Hindutvwadi’ persons. One of them Milind Ekbote was arrested and released on bail while the Sambhaji Bhide, the real master mind of Bhima Koregaon violence, is at large, thanks to shameless and unconstitutional protection given to him by the Chief Minister Devendra Phadanvis. Sambhaji Bhide is still indulging in propagating superstitions that eating of mango grown by him can help a couple to have a son.
Earlier also a number of progressive activists wedded to peaceful means, like Baba Adhav and Medha Patkar were arrested by the police as Naxalites or Maoists. There are thousands of intellectuals and activists who are not Naxalites or Maoists but are staunch supporters of the Adivasis, Dalits and other downtrodden sections of society.

Now that the Maharashtra Police ATS has unearthed a number of ’Hindutvwadi’ terrorists at Nala Sopara, Jalna, Aurangabad etc. the Maharashtra Government aided and abetted by Modi Government at the center, is trying to present a counter by arresting these intellectuals and activists after more than seven months of the Bhima Koregaon incident and misleading the people by giving a bad name to the dog before shooting him.

I, on behalf of the Socialist Party, call upon Devendra Phadanvis to unconditionally release all the arrested intellectuals/activists and arrest Sambhji Bhide immediately and prosecute real perpetrators of violence of Bhima Koregaon.

Pannalal Surana

Senior Leader, Socialist Party (India)