NEW DELHI (IANS) — Rights activists on Tuesday expressed shock over the raids and arrests of certain intellectuals and activists, claiming it is the central government’s “attempt to strike terror among those fighting for justice for the marginalised”.
The signatories included Admiral L. Ramdas (retd), Harsh Mander, journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, social activists Teesta Setalvad and Swami Agnivesh, and former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union leader Shehla Rashid Shora.
In a joint statement here, they demanded the immediate release of those arrested and dropping of “all false and malicious charges that were politically motivated and unjustified”.
“The arrest of prominent activists and intellectuals like Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and others, is nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those fighting for justice for the marginalised people,” the statement said.
They claimed that it is also an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party to “invent a false enemy and engage in scaremongering” to polarise voters ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“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 to stifle any criticism of the government,” the statement said.
“People like Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and others arrested are friends of the people who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of the people. By arresting them, the BJP is only exposing its own insecurities and its intolerance of any dissent or criticism of its policies,” it added.
These activists said that they learnt that Delhi Police, after arresting Sudha Bharadwaj, waited for a news channel to arrive before taking her to court. “This simply shows that the arrests are incomplete without accompanying sensationalist media propaganda to demonise the activists, human rights defenders and intellectuals,” they added.
The statement said that the arrests should be seen in continuation of attacks on pro-justice voices such as Swami Agnivesh, Umar Khalid and other student activists.
Pune Police earlier said it had raided alleged Maoist sympathisers across the country and arrested five top activists, some of whom are also human rights advocates.
The raids, the second in five months, were conducted at 10 places in Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Haryana.
“We have arrested Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha,” Pune Joint Commissioner of Police Shivajirao Bodkhe had told IANS.
Besides, other activists across the country, including Kranti Tekula, Stan Swami and Anand Teltumbde were raided as part of the ongoing probe into the alleged involvement of Maoist supporters in the Koregaon-Bhima riots on January 1.