Pune police on Tuesday raided the homes of at least nine rights activists and arrested five of them for alleged Maoist links in sweeping raids across the nation. The raids were reportedly carried out as part of a probe into the violence at Bhima - Koregaon, triggered by an event called 'Elgar Parishad' (conclave) held in Pune on December 31 last year. Hours after the arrests, several activists, authors and organisations started an online signature campaign expressing their anguish over the issue and demanded dropping of all the charges and immediate release of the arrested activists.
The online campaign has been supported by Shehla Rashid Shora, former Vice-President of JNU Students’ Union, Mohit Pandey - former President of JNU Students’ Union,
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta - Author, Journalist, Publisher, Neha Dixit – Journalist, Jignesh Mevani, MLA from Vadgam – Gujarat, Sanam Sutirath Wazir - Human Rights Activist, Nakul Singh Sawhney - Documentary Filmmaker, Teesta Setalvad - Journalist and Social Activist, Harish Iyer - Equal Rights Activist, Mirza Saaib Bég – lawyer and former President of NALSAR Student Bar Council, Dolphy D'souza of the Police Reforms Watch and others.
“We 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, Kranthi Tekula 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 a news channel 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 campaign letter read.
It further added, “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.”