Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO)
Press Release 2nd August,2018
Condemn Arrests of Democratic Rights Activists Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao and raids at homes of several others!
CDRO condemns the raid and arrests of democratic rights activists in Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ranchi and Goa by Maharashtra police on 28th of August under the pretext of investigation in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. Following the arrests of five academics, lawyers and activists in June, the second wave of arrests have expanded to include writers and journalists as well as the lawyers of those fighting for the release of those arrested in June. The targeting of people who have stood steadfast in solidarity with those arrested in connection with Bhima Koregaon and the repetition of the earlier script of arrests under the draconian UAPA reveals the desperation of the current regime to isolate democratic-minded people in the run up to the 2019 elections. Arrest and detention of Gautam Navlakha, member of PUDR and long time democratic rights activist, Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer, trade union activist and faculty at NLU Delhi, writer and activist Vernon Gonsalves, writer and lawyer Arun Ferreira and poet Varavara Rao along with the raids at the homes of Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi, Anand Teltumbde in Goa, Anala, Kumarnath, Pavani, Kranti Tekula and others in Hyderabad starkly reminds us of the extent to which the current regime will go to terrorise and silence voices of democracy.
On the 28th of August, the police spread across all these states, coordinated an ‘operation’ to arrest several democratic rights activists, all of whom have had decades of work defending the rights of the people and exposing the structures of violence patronised and perpetrated by the state. It is important to note that these arrests and raids, coming in waves, under shockingly severe charges filed by the Maharashtra police is indicative of a concerted effort to harass people leading democratic movements all over the country, spread fear among the people fighting for their rights and reveals the bigotry and chauvinism of the ruling government. The current government, it appears, will stop at nothing to crackdown on all voices of dissent. The search warrant and order sent by the Swargate Police Station in Pune was entirely in Marathi. Each of those arrested were refused translations of the warrant and arrested without being informed of the charges on them. In Delhi, the efforts of several lawyers to question the legality of the search warrant resulted in a stay on the transit remand for Gautam Navlakha. This was quickly followed Punjab and Haryana High Court order filing a stay on Sudha Bharadwaj’s transit remand. In a late night drama, with the police trying all efforts to abduct and take Sudha Bharadwaj away despite the HC order, the vigilance of her lawyers resulted in her being produced before a Magistrate who ordered for house arrest. On the 29th of August, both the High Court and Supreme Court were pushed to intervene in this case. It is crucial to note that the Supreme Court passed an order to send all the arrested back home and retain them under house arrest while giving the prosecution one week to provide evidence for the legality and necessity for arrest. The Delhi High Court raised strong objections to the way in which the police was conducting such operations and the Supreme Court sent notices to the Maharashtra government asking for explanations on its actions.
The government of Maharashtra, it is clear, is now working under the direct order of the BJP-RSS high command and the PMO wherein all criticism against the government is branded ‘Urban Naxals’. This targeting and branding has two purposes, to silence dissenting voices and to absolve the government of all responsibility for the social, economic and political condition of the country. The up-coming elections, held under these conditions, with incarceration of democratic rights activists and silencing of dissent is bound to be a farce in the name of democracy. The use of draconian laws, routinely used against activists to incarcerate for long periods of time and not to uphold the rule of law, branding the activities of lawyers, academics, poets and journalists as ‘terrorist and unlawful activities’ directly undermines the principles of freedom and democracy. Fascism is visible in its complete form wherein speaking up and standing with dalits, adivasis, minority communities and all marginalised people is declared criminal and belonging to lynch mobs draws patronage and garlands.
CDRO strongly condemns the arrests and raids on all such democratic rights activists and firmly stands against these anti-people, anti-democratic, repressive actions of the Maharashtra police and the central government and demands the immediate release of all those arrested and detained in house arrest in the Bhima Koregaon case.
CDRO stands united with all people and organisations targeted by the state and demands the freedom of all political prisoners.
On behalf of CDRO,
Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Tamil Nadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Janhastakshep (Delhi).
Joint Statement Against Continuing Arrests of Rights Activists
30th August 2018, Press Club of India, New Delhi
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.”
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.
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
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
JOINT STATEMENT OF RIGHTS GROUPS AT PRESS CONFERENCE HELD ON 29TH AUGUST 2018 AT MUMBAI PRESS CLUB, CONDEMNING THE ARRESTS OF PROMINENT HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS FOLLOWING SIMULTANEOUS MULTI-CITY RAIDS BY POLICE ON 28TH AUGUST 2018.
On 28th August 2018, simultaneous raids were conducted by Police on the premises of prominent human rights and civil liberties activists and public intellectuals – Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj (National Secretary, PUCL) in Faridabad, Father Stan Swamy in Jharkhand, Senior Writer and Poet Varavara Rao, his two daughters – Anala and Pavana, ‘The Hindu’ journalist KV Kumaranath, English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) Professor Satyanarayana, ‘Namaste Telangana’ journalist Kranthi Tekula – all in Hyderabad, Anand Teltumbde (General Secretary, CPDR) in Goa, Gautam Navlakha (founder member, PUDR) in Delhi, Arun Ferreira, Writer Vernon Gonsalves and Advocate Susan Abraham in Mumbai, and several of them have been arrested on false and fabricated charges under the draconian UAPA law.
WE the undersigned civil society organisations/ groups/ collectives, have jointly convened this urgent Press Conference to condemn the appalling state actions of reprisals against noted human rights activists and intellectuals, which are clearly politically motivated and an attempt to stifle voices of dissent. The unjustified raids on and arbitrary arrests of the above public spirited individuals who have tirelessly worked for the cause of the poor and marginalized sections of society, are nothing but an attack on Indian democracy and an attempt to undermine the democratic fabric of our society.
We, the undersigned organisations, strongly condemn the spate of raids and arrests on noted human rights activists and intellectuals, lawyers, academics and journalists across the country by the Pune police yesterday. Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj (National Secretary, PUCL) was detained at her residence in Faridabad, after a bizarre attempt by Pune police to disregard a clear order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Gautam Navlakha (founder member, PUDR) is under house arrest in Delhi, following stay granted by the Delhi High Court to the transit remand until today, when the habeas corpus petition is scheduled for hearing. Father Stan Swamy’s house was raided in Jharkhand allegedly in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case while he has not even attended the Pune event. In Hyderabad, 77-year old noted Writer and Poet Varavara Rao was arrested yesterday following raids at his residence and the residence of his two daughters – Anala and Pavana, their respective husbands – journalist KV Kumaranath and EFLU Professor Satyanarayana, and the raids on the residence of journalist Kranthi Tekula and his subsequent arrest. The residence of Anand Teltumbde (General Secretary, CPDR) in Goa was raided in his absence by the police, after procuring keys from the security guard. In Mumbai, the residences of advocates Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Susan Abraham were raided while the former two were arrested later in the day. Several of them have been arrested on false and fabricated charges under the draconian UAPA law. Meanwhile a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by eminent public persons against the arrests, which is scheduled to be taken up at 3.45 p.m. today.
This appalling state action is ostensibly in connection with the outbreak of violence and attacks on dalit participants of the Elgaar Parishad, a public meeting held on December 31, 2017, in Pune, to commemorate the anniversary of Bhima Koregaon. Some news channels are alleging that the arrests are linked to claims of an alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. However, this is clearly a politically motivated reprisal against public spirited individuals who have tirelessly and courageously worked for the cause of the poor and marginalized sections of society, and against unjust state policies and actions, and unscrupulous corporates.
The raids and arrests are a targeted crackdown on civil liberties and democratic rights activists across the country. Such a systematic and pre-meditated crackdown on human rights activists is reminiscent of the midnight knock on the eve of the Emergency in 1975 in India, and it is a matter of immense shame that the BJP government has unleashed all its powers to do exactly the same, 43 years later!
The raids and arrests, as well as statements by Pune police that more raids will follow are naked and concerted attempts to intimidate and stifle voices of dissent. These unjustified and illegal raids on and arrests of these human rights activists are nothing but an attack on Indian democracy and an attempt to undermine the democratic fabric of our society.
Certain media houses who, in collusion with the state and its law enforcing authorities, have indulged in an incredible attack on these human rights activists, defaming them and profiling them as “Urban Naxals/ Maoists” and calling them anti-national. Their nightly news bulletins have been irresponsible and inflammatory.
These arbitrary arrests of human rights activists, taken in conjunction with the absolute disregard of the same Pune police to take any serious action against the real culprits of the violence that broke out in Bhima Koregaon on Jan 1, 2018, also exposes the state’s real intent. It is incredible that both Sambhaji Bhide, founder of the Shivpratishthan Sanghatana, and Milind Ekbote, executive president of Samasta Hindu Aghadi , are charged under sections 153 (a) (Giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) and Sections 117 (Abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than 10 persons), all under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 whereas the current spate of arrests of activists are under the much more draconian provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which has been used as a tool to stifle political dissent and opposition.
Already, in the investigations of the same outbreak of violence, the police had arrested a number of dalit activists and academics – Dr Sudhir Dhawale, activist-lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Gadchiroli-based activist Mahesh Raut and research scholar from Delhi, Rona Wilson – and is yet to make out any credible case against them.
The UAPA is a repressive piece of legislation that flies in the face of all democratic norms. It empowers the government to ban ‘unlawful organisations’ and ‘terrorist organisations’ and membership of such organisations, which attracts a punishment of upto life imprisonment. Those charged under it are denied bail for upto six months, and, as lawyers and free speech commentators have said, ‘Section 43D(5) of the UAPA is effectively a warrant for perpetual imprisonment without trial!’
The arrests also come in the midst of an unprecedented investigation by the Maharashtra ATS against the Sanatan Sanstha for the killings of anti-superstition activist Prof Narayan Dhabolkar, senior activist and CPI leader Govind Pansare, as well as Prof Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh. As the noose tightens on this organization, the arrests for the Bhima Koregaon violence are perhaps a cynical ploy to divert attention from this investigation.
In the light of the above, we the undersigned organisations –
1. Demand the immediate and unconditional release of human rights activists, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navalakha, Anand Teltumbde, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Kranthi Tekula and Vernon Gonsalves and the withdrawal of the false and fabricated case against all the human rights activists;
2. Reiterate our demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all other activists arrested earlier in connection with the same case, including Prof. Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale, and all other human rights activists charged under the draconian UAPA in false cases;
3. Seek the urgent intervention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) 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 arbitrary arrests of the human rights activists by the state and the police on false and fabricated accusations and charges;
4. Demand that the Press Council of India and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority take suo moto action to direct media houses to desist from all forms of ‘fake news’ and in particular stop this false and baseless allegations and criminalisation of human rights activists, who are working tirelessly against the state’s anti-people actions and policies, in an attempt to malign them and influence public sentiment.
5. Demand that the speedy investigation and trial of the real culprits of the violence in Bhima Koregaon including right wing leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, be effected immediately and they be taken under arrest.
6. Demand that the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Phadnavis speak out and distance himself from his ‘mentor’, the prime accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence, Sambhaji Bhide.
7. Demand that the State and Police immediately desist from using the draconian UAPA law against human rights activists and public intellectuals, and that the same be repealed with immediate effect.
We call upon 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 vindictive State policies and actions.
(1) PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES (PUCL) – MAHARASHTRA,
(2) COMMITTEE FOR PROTECTION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS (CPDR),
(3) WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION (WSS),
(4) FORUM AGAINST OPPRESSION OF WOMEN,
(5) LABIA – A QUEER FEMINIST LBT COLLECTIVE,
(7) BEBAAK COLLECTIVE,
(8) AKSHARA WOMEN’S RESOURCE CENTRE
(9) POLICE REFORMS WATCH,
(10) AMBEDKAR PERIYAR PHULE STUDY CIRCLE (APPSC) – IIT BOMBAY
(11) NEW TRADE UNION INITIATIVE (NTUI)
(12) BHARAT BACHAO ANDOLAN
(13) CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE (CJP)
(14) PEOPLE’S COMMISSION ON SHRINKING DEMOCRATIC SPACES (PCSDS)
(15) HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS ALERT (HRDA) – INDIA
(16) INDIAN CHRISTIAN WOMEN’S MOVEMENT
(17) SATYASHODHAK, MUMBAI
(18) JAGRUT KAMGAR MANCH (JKM)
(20) ADVOCATE SURENDRA GADLING DEFENCE COMMITTEE
(21) INDIAN SOCIAL ACTION FORUM (INSAF)
(22) CAUSE LAWYERS ALLIANCE
(23) NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS (NAPM)
(24) LAWYERS COLLECTIVE
(25) NIVARA HAKK SURAKSHA SAMITI
(26) ALL INDIA DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION (AIDWA)
(27) HUMAN RIGHTS LAW NETWORK (HRLN)
(28) TRADE UNION CENTRE OF INDIA
(29) JANSANGHARSH MANCH (30) GUJARAT TRADE UNION FRONT AHMEDABAD
(31) THE BOMBAY CATHOLIC SABHA
(32) JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMISSION, MUMBAI
(33) INDIAN MUSLIMS FOR SECULAR DEMOCRACY
(34) AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA
(35) CO-ORDINATION OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE’S STUDENT ASSOCIATION (COSTISA)
(36) INNOCENCE NETWORK
(37) ASSOCIATION FOR PROTECTION OF CIVIL RIGHTS (APCR) & OTHERS
COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025
DATE: 28 August 2018
STRONGLY CONDEMN THE ARRESTS OF CRPP EXECUTIVE MEMBER VERNON GONSALVES, ADVOCATE SUDHA BHARADWAJ, ARUN FERREIRA, GAUTAM NAVLAKHA,
VARAVARA RAO, AND KRANTI TELUKA BY THE MAHARASHTRA POLICE, AND THE RAIDS CONDUCTED AT THE HOMES OF FATHER STAN SWAMY, ANALA, KUMARANTH,
ANAND TELTUMBDE AND PROF. SATYANARAYANA OTHERS.
In yet another brazen act to stifle dissent, the Maharashtra Police have arrested Vernon Gonsalves, who is an Executive Member of the CRPP, and well known activists and lawyers Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, and Kranti Teluka. Raids were also conducted across Goa, Jharkhand, Delhi, and Telangana in the houses of Anand Teltumbde, Father Stan Swamy, Anala, Kumaranth, Prof. Satyanarayana and many others. Right at the time when the terror plots by the rightwing Sanatan Sanstha is emerging, the bogey of assassination plot on the Prime Minister is re-invoked and these arrests and raids are carried out. More importantly, the 90 day period of judicial custody for the five activists arrested in the month of June 2018 is just about to end and the charge sheet is yet to be filed. At this time, when the police narratives are falling apart, these arrests reveal the desperation of the Maharashtra police to shut down all criticism by arrested more activists.
Today’s action by the Pune police reeks not just of diversionary tactics, but also a ploy to extend the custody of Professor Shoma Sen, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale, and Rona Wilson. While those who unleashed violence on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon are roaming free, Dalit and adivasi intellectuals and Human Rights Activists who have stood by them are being targeted by the state. These arrests and raids are a blatant attempt at stifling dissenting voices revealing a sinister, premeditated and politically motivated effort to malign the arrested and discredit them through branding instead of evidence. It is crucial to note that this effort at using the full might of the law is revealed in the sections of the IPC and UAPA used against the arrested. These include IPC 153A – promoting enmity between different groups of people, 505 – statements conducing public mischief, 117 – abetting commission of offence, 120B – criminal conspiracy; under UAPA 13 – unlawful activities, 16 – terrorist acts, 17 – raising funds for terrorist acts, 18 – conspiracy, 18B – recruiting persons for terrorist act, 20 – member of terrorist gang or organisation, 38 – membership of terrorist organisation, 39 – support to terrorist organisation, 40 – raising funds for terrorist organisations. The intention of the police becomes amply clear when we note that each of the arrested persons are well regarded human rights activists who have publicly worked for the rights of dalits, adivasis, minority communities, women’s rights, workers’ rights and spoken and written extensively about the policies of the state. Moreover, all of the persons targeted by the state have been steadfast and resolute in their stands for decades. These charges, none of which stand up in front of slightest of scrutiny, is meant merely to incapacitate and silence these voices by sending them to custody for extended periods of time.
The raid at the homes of Susan Abraham and Arun Ferreira and the eventual arrests of Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves patently reveals the effort to scuttle possibility of establishing a case for the release of the five arrested in connection with Bhima Koregaon in June. Now, with the arrests of the lawyers fighting the case, the Maharashtra police are making all efforts to ensure that all those who stand with the spirit of democracy are denied all democratic rights. The efforts being made to scuttle the High Court stay on the transit remand of Gautam Navlakha and Sudha Bharadwaj is another instance where the upholders of law are willing to do anything to blatantly abuse and disregard the law. The efforts to illegally take Sudha Bharadwaj to Pune, despite the Punjab and Haryana High Court order putting a stay on the remand, clearly indicates the maliciousness of the police force. The gherao of an unprecedented number of police personnel during the arrest of Varavara Rao and the ransacking of his home is another such instance of police brutality. The search of Anand Teltumbde’s residence during his absence is patently illegal and raising
concerns about the extent to which the police will go to clamp down and spread fear among people. The extended interrogation of Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi, Jharkhand, and Prof. Satyanarayana in Hyderabad while keeping them confined to their residence since early morning and denying any legal assistance is another such instance of
The order for the raid and arrests, coming from Swargate Police Station in Pune, is motivated to foist false cases on democratic rights activists through fabrications and strong-arm tactics. The callous disregard for the rule of law and the fundamental rights of people by the institutions of the state reveals a stark image of a fascist Indian State. CRPP strongly condemns these raids and arrests and demands the immediate and unconditional release of all arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners demands an end to all such ‘operations’ by the Maharashtra police, stands in solidarity with all such voices of democracy and is determined to fight this vicious assault on all those who dare to speak out against the violence of the state.
SAR GEELANI (President)
AMIT BHATTACHARYYA (Secretary General)
SUJATO BHADRA (Vice President)
SUKHENDU BHATTACHARJEE (Vice President)
MN RAVUNNI (Vice President)
P. KOYA (Vice President)
MALEM (Vice President)
HANYBABU MT (Media Secretary).
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 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.
*Statement on the Ongoing Crushing of Dissent and People’s Movements by the Sangh and the State: Take forward the struggle for Real Democracy*
Since early morning 28th August, homes of 10 well-known public activists in Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Delhi, Faridabad and Goa were raided by Maharashtra Police, and 5 have been arrested. With the intervention of the Delhi HC and SC on 29th Aug stalling their transit remand, there are presently under house arrest.
The arrested include Human Rights activist Gautam Navlakha and Trade Unionist Sudha Bharadwaj in Delhi, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonzalves in Mumbai, Poet activist Vara Vara Rao in Hyderabad. Also raided were homes of Dalit intellectual Anand Teltumbde in Goa, Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi, Advocate Susan Abhraham, Professor K Satyanarayana from EFLU, and journalists KV Kurmanath and Kranthi Tekula. In an earlier move related to the same case, 5 activists, Sudhir Dhawale, Soma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson, were similarly arrested from Mumbai, Pune and Delhi who continue to rot in Pune Jail without bail.
Fabricated charges under criminal conspiracy, and the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 are thrust on these human rights defenders. This relates to the Bhima Koregaon ‘violence’ on 1st January this year, when thousands of Dalits returning from bicentennial celebration of the annual gathering, this time against the ‘new Peshwas’, were attacked by dominant caste goons–led by Shambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote–under protection of the government. This was later randomly expanded, to a criminal conspiracy to ‘assassinate the Prime Minister’, through a forged letter not submitted to the Court but rather ‘leaked’ to Republic TV, and creating the bogey of ‘urban Naxals’.
_All arrested human rights defenders must be immediately released, and all false cases dropped._
*Not Random, but Coordinated Attack on Ideological Opposition and Movements*
So, rather than being random, these arrests, as in Police statement, for being “suspected to have links with Elgar Parishad that is leading the violent Dalit movement in Maharashtra” is symptomatic of a coordinated attack by the deep State _on two levels_ primarily – to crush the ideological opposition (‘the anti-nationals’, and now the ‘urban naxals’) by killing, arresting, silencing or co-opting its public voices, and to stem the politicisation and assertion of mass movements like the insurgent Dalit movement. And of course not to let the two mix where they show tendencies of doing so.
This is in the broader atmosphere of the viciousness and impunity with which the _State machinery is being actively wielded by the RSS-BJP in coordination with its vigilante groups_ to selectively target its critics and silence movements. Along with the _RSS work in the mass psyche to build fascism from ground-up_, there is a general right-ward shift in the polity, not limited to the Central government alone. The killings of Dabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh and the recent attack on Umar Khalid come up as stark examples of critics being silenced. And this is just the more well-known tip of the iceberg. The continued incarceration of Bhim Army Chief Chadrasheskar Azad Ravan under NSA for over a year, the Life Imprisonments of Graziano, Pricol, Maruti (with the State prosecutor demanding death penalty!) workers in Jail without bail over 6 years, the thousands arrested after 2nd April Bharat Bandh by Dalits, the killings of 40 Adivasis in Gadchiroli, and of 13 Tuticorin protestors, crackdown on Pathalgadi movement, and the thousands arrested and tortured after the Bhima Koregaon ‘violence’ are part of countless ‘unnamed’ toilers.
*Arrest Ekbote, Bhide, and halt the organized terror activities of the Sanatan Sanstha*
It is public knowledge by now that the real instigators of the violence in the aftermath of the Bhima Koregaon annual gathering this year was masterminded by Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Bhide alias Bhide Guruji, who has patronage of PM Narendra Modi. They were never arrested despite cases being registered against them after the massive Dalit protests that ensued after January, while key witnesses in the case, like 19-year old Dalit girl Pooja Sakat, was murdered.
Related to this network, are other Sanghi terror organisations – Sanatan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Shri Ram Sene, as part of a design and operation to engage in killings and disruptions in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. Linked directly to Bhide’s Shri Shiv Pratisthan, as various media reports and Police investigations testify, are the arrested criminals of the Sanatan Sanstha in Maharashtra: Vaibhav Raut, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, Sharad Kalaskar, Shrikant Pangarkar, Avinash Pawar. While there is not a shred of evidence against the so-called ‘urban Naxals’, conclusive evidences have come pointing to direct links of these criminals with the murder of Dabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh – who were in their ‘Hit Lists’. Gauri Lankesh murder-accused has confessed to being indoctrinated at Goa’s Sanatan Sanstha. In the Dabolkar murder, it was found that his shooter Sachin Andure and his accomplice Sharad Kalaska were trained by arms trainer Rajesh Bangera, and Amol Kale and Amit Degwekar. Cash in envelopes drawn from Sanatan Sanstha account and bank pass book from where the money was drawn was found in Degwekar’s possession. Pansare’s murderers, Shrikanth Pangarkar and Samir Gaikwad, and also Kalburgi’s murderers Amol Kale and Shankar Narayan, all have links with Sanatan Sanstha, which operates in 22 registered names in various cities and districts in MH, Kar, Goa. The raid at the arms-making unit or factory in Nala Sopara and seizure of huge cache of arms and ammunitions by the Police, the plans to blow up or create blasts at six theaters and at least 4-5 Ganapati mandaps in different parts of Maharashtra including Mumbai, Pune, Sangli and Solapur, and pin the blame on the Muslim community, point to a well-oiled terror machinery which is precisely to subvert democracy.
These are not few terrorist individuals but a sinister fascist ideology. When Diptesh Patil, a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti another front of Sanatan Sanstha, claims to the Indian Express, “We don’t have a parent organisation but we work closely with the VHP, HJS, Sanatan Sanstha, Bajrang Dal, and both the Shiv Sena and BJP”, it points to the seamless _coordination of the ‘fringe’ and the ‘mainstream’ maintained by the RSS and normalization of this terror_. The establishing of their ideological hegemony through a fascistic Hindu Rashtra, thus also helping handle Imperialist crisis, is diametrically opposed to the idea of a secular socialist federal democratic republic envisioned by revolutionary freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh.
_This normalization of terror and complete State impunity given to Sanghi terrorists must stop. The government should immediately arrest Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Bhide. It should use stringent provisions in law to halt and punish the organized terror activities of the Sanatan Sanstha and its linked organisations._
*The Challenge before Us*
However, rather than arrest and prosecute the real accused of both the Bhima Koregaon violence and the murders of Lankesh and Dabolkar, the Police is keeping itself busy by arresting those who are raising their voices for _real democracy_ and freedom – both the ideological opposition and the mass movements. The use of UAPA, NSA and other draconian ‘anti-terror’ laws which suspend all civil liberties is today blatant, expansive and casual, which and cannot be allowed in a democracy.
It must be said here that this builds up on the regime of laws beefing up the security State (like the UAPA or AFSPA itself, or anti-cow slaughter laws for instance, or the planned introduction of ‘blasphemy laws’ in Punjab) that the previous so-called ‘secular’ Congress government provided. Taking this several steps further, and destroying the impunities and niceties of safe spaces of bourgeois legality, the RSS-BJP brings on an additional element to use both distinctly and along with State power – the mass psyche nurtured and created to legitimize and take forward the fascist movement. The series of lynchings of primarily Muslims and Dalits and oppressed communities, and their normalization, now extends itself to various other spaces, even the material situation of the majority of the toilers in the country is rapidly deteriorating.
_To fight these cannot be limited to the question of ‘2019’ alone_. Our struggle against the ascendant fascist movement and state, power and capital must confront the limits of our struggles today. These limits cannot always be externalized–that some saviour parliamentary opposition will clobber itself up and take the lead, that we shall engage in civil isolated resistance in our terrains and be contained. The specificities and strength of resistance mass movements of the toilers must be engaged with, and we have to also confront the present lack of a coherent historical imagination.
Many instances of resistance by mass movements have been seen in the last phase. Taking the Dalit movement itself, which the Maharashtra Police is so keen to stop from ‘turning violent’, has shown an insurgence not be contained within the system. Besides Bhima Koregaon, the working class Dalit upsurge showed itself in the last phase showed itself in the assertion of the Bhim Army in Saharanpur, and the spontaneous 2nd April Bharat Bandh. Even after repression, 10,000 activists of the Bhim Army rocked Delhi on 19 August which was largely ignored by the ‘national media’ or discourse setters. The ‘leaderless’ mass Dalit upsurge during the 2nd April Bharat Bandh in fact sent the State completely on backfoot temporarily, before it sprung into action arresting and foisting false cases on thousands across the country. No amount of BJP minister dramas of ‘dinners with untouchables’ have been able to offset the rage caused by the real attacks on education, health, jobs and dignity of the working class Dalit population in the country, and mess up RSS wet-dreams of a subservient Dalit population governed by the varna shrama within a monolithic Hindu fold versus ‘external enemies’. Even as simultaneous attacks on workers, peasants and those protecting their commons increase manifold everyday in the general rightward shift, the resistance beyond the suffocating electoral games is very much alive.
_It is the understanding, strengthening and expansion of such movements (learning from history of struggle) of the toilers for ‘real democracy’ in the country which all progressive forces and individuals must take forward. Along with this, the task of democratically working out an imagination of an alternative beyond what the system offers us, has to engaged with renewed energy again today._
1. All arrested human rights defenders must be immediately released, and all false cases dropped.
2. The government should immediately arrest Milind Ekbote and Shambhaji Bhide. It should use stringent provisions in law to halt and punish the organized terror activities of the Sanatan Sanstha and its linked organisations.
*Krantikari Naujawan Sabha*
30 August, 2018
PRESS RELEASE: NEPALI ORGANIZATIONS CONDEMN THE POLICE ACTION AGAINST CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS IN INDIA
On Tuesday, August 28, the Pune Police orchestrated house raids and arrests of several civil rights activists and intellectuals in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Rachi, Goa and Faridabad. Among the arrested are Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira. Among those whose homes were raided are Susan Abraham, Kranti Teluka, Father Stan Swamy and Anand Teltumbde. The arrested are being accused of holding “Maoist sympathies” and charged specifically for inciting Dalits last December, when clashes had broke out between Dalits and right-wing groups during the gathering of Maharashtrian Dalits near Pune to mark the 200th anniversary of Koregaon Victory, celebrated as the first battle against caste oppression.
As of now, the Supreme Court of India has intervened to order the arrested be kept at their homes until September 6 following a writ petition submitted by prominent Indian intellectuals against this arbitrary use of arrest. But the case is far from over.
It is outrageous that the Indian government, instead of defending human rights and securing the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, is cracking down on the very people who have fought for justice in India. The baseless charges and harassments laid on these lawyers, activists and writers who have always stood up for the rights of Dalit and other marginalized groups is effectively an attempt to create a culture of state terror. This is a violation of democratic principles, abuse of police power, as well as a dismissal of Dalit dissent.
These tactics of silencing citizen bodies by targeting innocent public intellectuals and activists who raise critical issues are on the rise in the South Asian nations and beyond. On behalf of the organizations listed below, we staunchly denounce these tactics and we call upon the Indian government to live up to the spirit of the constitution and cease this assault on civil liberties.
We will be watching how the Indian government and the Indian judiciary respond to this crisis in the coming days. As part of Nepali civil society, we recognize that the erosion of democratic values in India has direct repercussions on the protection of our freedoms here in Nepal. These arrests and raids are being widely condemned and we add our voices in solidarity to join everyone who fights for justice and works to safeguard Dalit rights.
Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization
Feminist Dalit Organization
Jagaran Media Center
Center for Dalit Women Nepal
Nepal Picture Library
Satori Center for the Arts