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India: 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

30 August 2018

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National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) is deeply shocked to hear about the raids and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders and advocates from different parts of the country. We, the undersigned, unequivocally condemn the efforts of the State government of Maharashtra to persecute them in a mala fide and motivated manner in order to obstruct the legal and human rights work being carried out by them.

On the morning of August 28, 2018, the Pune Police launched simultaneous raids at the homes of severalhuman rights defenders who are activists, priests, writers and lawyers in Mumbai, New Delhi, Ranchi, Goa and Hyderabad. Following the raids, the police havearrested Adv. Sudha Bharadwaj, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Mr. Vernon Gonsalves, Adv. Arun Ferreira and Mr. Varavara Rao. Among those whose residences were raided, include Adv. Susan Abraham, journalist Mr. Kranthi Tekula, Fr. Stan Swamy SJ and Mr. AnandTeltumbde. As per newspaper reports, a relative of Mr. Varavara Rao confirmed that his daughter Ms. Analaand son-in-law Mr. K.V. Kurmanath’s house had also been raided, and their laptops and hard drives were seized. Raids also took place at the residence of Prof. K Satyanarayana from the English and ForeignLanguages University (EFLU). All the raids and arrests have been conducted in the same FIR No. 4/2018, PSVishrambaug, Pune for the Bhima Koregaon violence that broke out on January 1, 2018. According to sources, laptops, phones and other materials were seized from some of the residences. A contingent from Vishrambag police station in Pune, which is investigating the Bhima Koregaon violence, is part of the raids.

The current arrest and raids have taken 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.

We condemn the process in which these raids were conducted. There was thus, no compliance with the requirements of Section 165 and 166 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973. They have been charged under Sections 153a, 505, 117 and 120 of the IPC and several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

There has been a systematic abuse of the legal process by the Government to malign the human rights activists and advocates over the past couple of months. The arbitrary arrest and raids is nothing but an escalation of the Government’s campaign to crush dissent and criminalise any person or organisation that questions or opposes the violation of fundamental rights and human rights by the State and its agencies. The motivated actions against them fit neatly into the present Government’s concerted campaign against marginalisedand oppressed sections of society and any person, whether students, activists, academics or individuals who question the policies, actions and the abuse of power by the government.

The above defenders have an exceptional profile of public service, probity and personal and professional integrity as lawyers and as human rights activists. Their work has received recognition at the National level. 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 have been tirelessly involved in advocating the cause and fighting for the rights of the most poor, marginalised 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.
NCDHR strongly:

1) Condemns this act of state reprisal and attempts of the state to stifle voices of dissent.
2) Believes these human rights defenders are being targeted for their work to ensure justice in the case of Bhima Koregaon violence where the prime accused are associated with the Hindutva right-wing groups.
3) Demands immediate release of the arrested
4) Condemns the concerted state effort to shield the two main perpetrators Sambhaji Bhide and MilindEkbote, accused of inciting the Bhima Koregaonviolence. These Hindutva right-wing groups are closely associated with the current ruling dispensation at the centre and state and the immunity provided to the two prime accused, contrary to the arrests of human rights defenders, speaks volume of the intentions of the state.

We stand in solidarity with all the above mentioned human rights activists and advocates.

We condemn all efforts to obstruct their work, and to harass and persecute them.

We are confident that they will not be deterred by the malicious and vindictive campaign unleashed by the Government and we are confident that they will continue to work to uphold Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights.

We appeal to all those who support the right to dissent, question and criticize anti-people policies of the government to express their solidarity.

N Paul Divakar
Asia Dalit Rights Forum

VA Rameshnathan
General Secretary
National Dalit Movement for Justice-NCDHR

Asha Kowtal
General Secretary
All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch

Beena Pallical
General Secretary
Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan-NCDHR

Kind Regards,

N. Paul Divakar
8/1 South Patel nagar, 2nd Floor
New Delhi - 110 008
Mobile: +91 99100 46813
Skype ID: pdanamala
Twitter: @paulncdhr