Joint Statement Against Continuing Arrests of Rights Activists

arrested activists

We, the undersigned, strongly oppose and condemn the illegal raids carried out in different cities, and arrests of Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao by the Maharashtra Police on 28 th August 2018. These are only the most recent arrests in a continuing wave of repression spearheaded by the police at the behest of their political leaders and their communal and casteist agendas against people’s movements and human rights defenders. The targeting of these democratic rights activists and organizations is anattack on the poor and marginalized sections of our society on whose behalf these activists have been raising their voices.

The following are some of the significant aspects of the arrests:

  1. The current five arrests have been carried out under FIR. No.4/2018 at Vishrambagh PS, Pune in connection with Bhima Koregaon clashes. Under the same FIR a similar wave of arrests was carried out on 6 th June against activists, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale. Those arrested on 28th August were not named in the original FIR. Nor did any of the names, barring one, of those arrested in June feature in the FIR.

  2. The use of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as an instrument to target political dissent. Stringent UAPA sections on unlawful activities, terrorist acts, recruiting for terrorist acts, being members of terrorist organisations, support for terrorist organisations and providing funds for terrorist organization were added to the FIR and tailored for the arrests made in June and August.

  3. Significantly, the two accused, habitual offender Milind Ekbote and godman, Sambhaji Bhide in the Bhima Koregaon case who were named in the very first FIR have never been penalized under UAPA. The Maharashtra government has in fact refused to prosecute Bhide.

  4. The August arrests highlight violation of all due procedures, in a mockery of the legal system. The Delhi HC has questioned the irregularities and pointed lapses on part of Maharashtra Police while hearing the Habeas Corpus petition against the transit remand ordered by the CJM Saket Court in the context of Gautam Navlakha’s arrest.

  5. There is a generic narrative of urban Naxalites, support to or association with Naxalite organisations, planned assassinations etc being circulated to create a climate of terror where members of civil society will hesitate to protest and dissent.

  6. The invoking of UAPA against rights activists, which ensure long term incarceration, denial of bail, bans is meant to muzzle voices of democratic dissent. The Supreme Court has rightly observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If it is not allowed the pressure cooker will burst.”

We demand

  1. Immediate and unconditional withdrawal of FIR No.4/2018 at Vishrambagh PS, Pune, Maharashtra and all held under it.
  2. Return of all items such as laptops, mobile phones etc. seized during the illegal arrest and search operations
  3. Appropriate action against Maharashtra Police for launching a vicious and malafide attack against activists.
  4. Withdrawal of all cases under UAPA and immediate end to such political acts of vendetta.
  5. The unconditional repeal of UAPA.

Signed by:
1. Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
2. Arundhati Roy, Author
3. Bezwada Wilson, Safai Karamchari Andolan
4. Harish Dhawan, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights
5. Jignesh Mewani, Dalit rights activist
6. Kalyani Menon Sen, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
7. Kavita Sarivastava, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
8. ND Pancholi, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
9. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate
10. Sanjay Parikh, Advocate, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
and many other individuals


Signed by the following organisations:
1. Peoples Union for Democratic Rights
2. Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
3. Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
4. Indian Association of People’s Lawyers
5. Committee for Release of Political Prisoners
6. Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan
7. Jan Hastakshep
8. Indian Federation of Trade Unions
9. Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra
10. Pinjra Tod
11. Saheli
12. United Against Hate
13. Peoples Commission on Shrinking Deocratic Spaces
14. Centre for Struggling Women
15. Krantikari Naujawan Sabha
16. Samajwadi Jan Parishad
17. Persecuted Prisoners’ Solidarity Committee
18. Dayar-I-Shauq Students’ Charter (DISSC), Jamia
19. Rough Cut
20. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan
21. National Campaign for Right to People’s Right to Information
22. Naujawan Bharat Sabha
23. Pension Parishad
24. Right to Food Campaign
25. Jan Manch, Uttar Pradesh
26. National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights
27. Loktantrik Janta Dal
28. South Asia Citizens Web
29.New Socialist Initiative
30. Bigul Mazdoor Dasta
31. Progressive Democratic Students Union
32. All India Institute of Medical Sciences – Resident Doctors Association
33. Peoples Union for Civil Rights, Haryana
34. Stree Mukti Sangathan
35. PIPMS, Delhi
36. National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO)
37. New Socialist Initiative

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