Activists, Authors Condemn Arrests Over Bhima Koregaon Violence
A number of intellectuals and activists came together to criticise the arrests.
Several activists and intellectuals, among them Arundhati Roy, Prashant Bhushan, Bezwada Wilson and Aruna Roy, came together for a press conference in Delhi on Thursday, 30 August, to condemn the recent arrest of five activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence and to protest the raids on the houses of five others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The press conference, which was held at Delhi’s Press Club, saw several well-known activists and thinkers speak on the recent ‘spate of arbitrary arrests’ of activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence and alleged Naxal links.
Other speakers at the event were Harish Dhawan from PUDR, Kalyani Menon from WSS, ND Pancholi (PUCL) and Sanjay Parikh (PUCL). Activist Jignesh Mevani was also among those present at the press conference.
Speakers Condemn the Arrests
Speaking at the event, Parikh said, “If you can’t say what you want to then this is nothing less than an emergency.”
ND Pancholi from PUCL said, “Freedom of speech and expression were the planks of our freedom struggle.”
“Undeclared emergency, fascism and ‘the Gujarat model’ – all three are on display in these recent arrests,” said Jignesh Mevani.
Mevani also spoke about the alleged assassination plot against PM Modi, saying that it is a plot generated by the police on the instructions of PM Modi and Amit Shah.
Prashant Bhushan said, “What is happening in the country? Lynch mobs have been let loose... Those who have lynched people are let go of.”
Referring to the recent surveys conducted, which have shown falling popularity for Modi and the BJP, Arundhati Roy said, “We are living in dangerous times and there will be a ruthless and continuous attempt to divert attention from the reasons for this loss of popularity and to fracture the growing solidarity of the Opposition.”
“It is a coup against the Constitution, it is a dire situation and it is a situation worse than the Emergency. This situation is to declare an upper caste Hindu Rashtriya. Everyone who doesn’t agree is criminalised,” Roy added.
Speaking to The Quint, Aruna Roy referred to the murder of Gauri Lankesh, saying that no action was being taken and that instead, evidence was “being procured against people”, in order to distract from the real situation, to “make us feel confused as a nation.”
She also added that activists are being given different labels every few months by the government, and that this is being done “with a diabolical intent.”
In a joint statement issued by the groups that organised the event, they said the "targeting of these democratic rights activists and organisations is an attack on the poor and marginalised sections of our society on whose behalf these activists have been raising their voices."
On Tuesday, 28 August, police teams had arrested activist-poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi, after conducting raids at their residence.
The Pune police had been conducting countrywide raids on people suspected of having Maoist links to the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
The countrywide raids were part of an ever-expanding investigation into alleged Maoist involvement in the Elgaar Parishad, an event that was held a day before the bicentennial of Bhima-Koregaon. According to the police, the speeches made at Elgar Parishad incited violence during the Bhima-Koregaon event on 1 January 2018.
The activists have been detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
After hearing petitions by activists against the arrests of the five, the Supreme Court on 29 August ordered that all five activists be kept under house arrest till 6 September, when the court will decide on the matter next. There will also be a stay on their transit remand till then, it had added.
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