Free Rights-Activists in India

arrested activists

Peace in India and SOAS India Society appeal to students, researchers, academics, workers, activists and members of the Indian diaspora in the UK.

We live in times when we are constantly questioning ideas of freedom, democracy, citizenship and nationhood. In India under Narendra Modi’s fundamentalist regime we have seen alarming suppression of dissent along with sustained efforts to reinforce Hindutva ultra-nationalist ideologies and the vision of a regressive purist Hindu nation. In order to achieve this vision, the state has implemented pogroms and unprecedented levels of hatred and hate crimes towards India’s diverse communities. The targets are Muslims, Christians and the Dalits as well as workers, peasants, farmers and students who are now treated as enemies of the state. In such an environment, recent incidents highlighted in the media such as floggings in Una, Junaid’s assault, Asifa’s (eight year old Kashmiri girl) rape, threats of student leaders Kanhaiya and Umar’s arrests (under archaic sedition laws) or journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder  have become the everyday realities.

The current political climate of the country is witnessing an extreme form of ‘internal colonisation’ where neoliberal economic policies have become a euphemism for structural oppression of the communities living at the edge.

In 2017, on New Year’s Eve, thousands of Dalits made their way to pay respect to the Dalit-Mahar martyrs of the Anglo-Maratha war of 1818 at an event organised to mark the completion of 200 years of Bhima Koregaon battle wherein Mahar regiment crushed the ruling class and dominant caste in the battle field. However, the peaceful procession was marred with violence when upper caste locals and dominant class attacked the procession. Instead of arresting the people who incited the violence and the attacks, local police took into custody several civil rights activists falsely accusing them of planning the assassination of Prime Minister Modi. As a result, prominent rights-activists including Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, GautamNavlakha  were arrested.

Even before the 2017 arrests, Delhi University Professor GN Saibaba along with Pandu Narote, Hem Mishra, Prashant Rahi, Mahesh Tirki and Vijay Tirki were imprisoned on fabricated charges and continue to remain in prison. Fabricated charges have also been brought against Stan Swamy and Anand Teltumbde. All arrested persons are public intellectuals who have spoken out against rising fundamentalism, state terrorism and the indiscriminate use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to suppress democratic voices in India.The point of laws like UAPA is not to punish the terrorists, but to keep whistle-blowers, political opponents and activists languishing in jail for years, even decades, to the fact that bail under these laws is very difficult and the notorious delays in judicial proceedings.

The four pillars of democracy, the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Media are increasingly being captured by Modi’s fascist government and allies. These are used to silence opponents and as state propaganda machine for furthering their own interests and creating fear and apprehension among the people who challenge its neoliberal economic policies and ultra-nationalist agenda. Keeping these violations in mind, we must reconsider the responsibility of the diaspora community and of the global civil society.

As India stands at a historic cross-road between fundamentalism and progressive humanism we sincerely appeal to all students, researchers, academics, workers, activists and members of the Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom to take a stand on these arrests and demand the immediate release of all arrested activists. We urge you stand in upholding India’s democratic and secular values and raise your voice against the silencing of dissent and free speech. As citizens and immigrants, your voices play an important role in shaping public opinion in the campaign to free these wrongfully imprisoned activists. Your support and solidarity will also help boost the morale of rights activists and democratic struggles in India. Let us stand shoulder to shoulder together with our Indian friends and comrades who are struggling against injustice and bring an end to fascism.


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