Pressure Mounts for Release of Political Prisoners and Repeal of Draconian Laws

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Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves. — Photo:-thewire.in

“The inhuman and over-crowded jails have been transformed into the gallows for those who the State seeks to silence,” says newly formed group of up to three dozen organisations

 Clarion India 

NEW DELHI —  The Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a platform comprising some three dozen organisations, have demanded the release of octogenarian revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, Dr. G.N. Saibaba and other activists apprehended during anti-CAA protests and the Bhima Koregaon incident.

In a statement issued on Thursday, CASR also demanded repealing of draconian laws like UAPA, PSA and NSA.

As per information received by family members, Varavara Rao’s health has rapidly deteriorated over the last couple of weeks. This is also evidenced by his weakening physical state, incoherent speech and inability to independently perform daily or bodily functions.

After persistent efforts of family members in highlighting his health condition, the jail authorities, who had denied these concerns, were compelled to shift the activist-journalist to JJ Hospital in Mumbai on July 13.

“However, his health further worsened as hospital authorities failed to care for him. They even forcibly sent away his family for raising concerns about him being abandoned on a dirty and unsanitary stretcher”, the statement reads.

On July 16, Rao tested positive for COVID-19 and was shifted to Saint George Hospital, Mumbai.

The CASR claims that the state has played a deliberate role in failing the health of Rao, adding that instead of making arrangements for immediate medical care and treatment, the Taloja Jail authorities denied Rao proper medical care.

The activists said the National Investigation Agency was apparently taking extra efforts to block all efforts for the release of those incarcerated under the Bhima Koregaon-Elgaar Parishad case despite heightened threat of a COVID-19 infection in cramped jails. They reminded the world that several undertrials are aged above 60 years, suffering from co-morbidities and hence particularly vulnerable to a COVID-19 infection. Besides Varavara Rao, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha and Shoma Sen are also languishing in the Jail.

Witch-hunting of activists by the Maharashtra Police started in 2018, activists said. Now the NIA, jail and hospital authorities are working on custodial murder of the political detainees, they alleged.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads faster and further into all parts of the country, the inhuman and over-crowded jails have been transformed into the gallows for those who the State seeks to silence”, the statement further reads.

The NIA has summoned some more persons, including Delhi University professor Hany Babu and Hyderabad-based journalist Kranti Tekula, to testify before it in Mumbai. The appeals for delay due to restrictions on travel and the imploding health crisis have been rejected. The activists say that all of it “reveals the base interests of this agency and its masters in the Ministry of Home Affairs” which is to instil fear among those daring to demand rights for the oppressed classes, castes and communities.

The organisations which have come together to form CASR are: AISA, AISF, APCR, BCM, Bhim Army, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, BSCEM, CEM, CRPP, CTF, Disha, DISSC, DSU, DTF, IAPL, IMK, Karnataka Janashakti, KYS, Lokpaksh, LSI, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, Mazdoor Patrika, Mehnatkash Mahila Sangathan, Morcha Patrika, NAPM, NBS, NCHRO, Nowruz, NTUI, People’s Watch, Rihai Manch, Samajwadi Janparishad, Satyashodak Sangh, SFI, United Against Hate and WSS.

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