‘Why Arrests of Writers, Lawyers and Activists Should Worry Us’
Delhi’s Parliament Street saw politicians, activists, professors and students condemning arrests by Pune police.
Anguished by the arrests of five human right activists, lawyers and journalists on 28 August, Delhi’s Parliament Street saw politicians, activists, professors and students condemning the move to ‘suppress the significant voices’ of the society in a protest on Thursday, 30 August.
A protest was organised by several civil rights groups under ‘Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan’ group to condemn witch-hunting of activists.
The protest saw Communist Party of India (M) leader Brinda Karat, civil rights activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad and Aam Aadmi Party’s Minister for Social Welfare Rajendra Pal Gautam in attendance among several others.
Students and professors of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Ambedkar University also participated in the protest.
Talking to The Quint, Brinda Karat said, “The greater danger arising from this situation is that the legal processes are being subverted. When you target and arrest lawyers, who are defending the poor, what is the message you (government) are trying to send.”
Karat also said that, at present, India is faced with a unique situation where the greater danger to the country emanates from the Centre.
“They (government) do not allow dissent. They (government) fabricate cases and when somebody comes out for those wrongly accused, they get arrested under the most draconian law,” Karat added.
“This is the most brazen attack on civil liberties and democratic rights by the Modi government. We do not think it is the Pune police or the Maharashtra government. This is coming straight from the Centre," Karat told PTI.
Calling the Modi government desperate and authoritarian, she said that the Centre does not want anybody to stand up and speak against it.
"The Supreme Court had to make sharp comments. In spite of that, the BJP spokesperson made definitive statements against not only the activists but all citizens criticising the arrest. They don't want anybody to stand up and speak against them," she told PTI.
Teesta Setalvad, secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace, which deals with the victims of communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, said that the government has tried to mop up hysteria by arresting the five activists and conducting raids without providing substantial evidence. “This kind of hysteria being moped up is very very dangerous,” Setalvad told The Quint.
"This is a clear attempt to divert attention from core issues. It's being done to instill fear in people and stifle anyone's voices who are in opposition," Setalvad told PTI.
CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali alleged that the arrests were an attempt to cover-up the misdeeds of the government.
"Truth about the note ban, Rafale deal is out in open for people to know. They are trying to suppress Dalits who are fighting for their rights. Even those taking up the fight for Dalits are not being spared," she told PTI.
Parliament Street, known as Sansad Marg, saw heavy deployment of police force minutes before the gathering of students, teachers, activists and politicians were to launch their protest condemning the persecution of human rights activists across the
“All the five arrested persons are known for their work in defence of the rights of workers, peasants, tribals, victims of state-organised caste and communal violence, army and state violence,” said Sucheta De, former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union President.
Sucheta also added that the government wants to divert the attention of people in the country from real issues by carrying out a false campaign of linking the work of these activists with an alleged plot to ‘assassinate the highest leaders’.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 29 August, had ordered that the 5 activists, who were arrested for their alleged links to Bhima Koregaon violence, be kept under house arrest till 6 September. The court had also issued a notice to the Maharashtra police, seeking a response from the government by then.
Police teams arrested activist-poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves 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.
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