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Press Release: Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO)

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

2ndSeptember,2018

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,
Asish Gupta,Coordinator

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).

Sep 4, 2018