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Civil society groups demand immediate release of 5 high profile activists

Dire situation more dangerous than the emergency: Arundhati Roy

By Abdul Bari Masoud,,

New Delhi: Strongly the demanding the “unconditional” repeal of dreaded the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a group of activists and intellectuals on Thursday urged the government to withdraw all cases under UAPA and immediate end to such political acts of vendetta against five high-profile civil rights defenders arrested two-days ago with alleged link to “Maoist”. They said the Pune police action marked the “breakdown” of the constitutional machinery and ‘Undeclared emergency’.

Holding a press conference at the Press Club of India and a demonstration at Jantar Mantra here to protest the arrest, the group demanded appropriate action against Maharashtra Police for “launching a vicious and malafide attack against activists”.


Celebrated author and activist Arundhati Roy said the government itself used word ‘fascist’ while referring the media reports that “Those held is part of anti-fascist plot to overthrow govt.”

These arrests were “as close to a declaration of an Emergency as we will ever get”, claimed in India it was a crime to belong to a minority community and to be poor. She called the arrest as “coup against the constitution” and a ‘dire situation more dangerous than the emergency”.

“From now till the election it will be a continuous circus of arrests…,” she added. “We will not know from where, whom and how the fireball will fall on us. We must not allow our attention to stray even when it rains fire.”

Criticizing the ‘demonetization’, the acclaimed writer said BJP has emerged as the “wealthiest party” while the poor’s pockets, instead of coming Rs 15 lakh into their accounts as promised, were robbed- off. While referring to some opinion polls, she said Modi and Amit Shah have been losing popularity.

She alleged that the ruling group wants to turn the country into “an upper-caste Hindu rahstra” as the country is witnessing “the re-Brahminization of education, this time fitted out in corporate clothes. Dalit, Adivasi and OBC students are once again being pushed out from institutions of learning because they cannot afford the fees.”

Speaking on the occasion, Gujarat Independent lawmaker Jignesh Mevani mocked the alleged assassination plot of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“The so-called Maoist plot to assassinate Modi is nothing but a plot designed and articulated by the Maharashtra police, upon the instruction of Modi and Amit Shah only to generate sympathy for Modi before 2019,” Mevani said.

On the arrest, Mevani said “It is a combination of an undeclared emergency, fascism and the Gujarat mode”. “They want to do two things – they want to terrorise all who speak against the BJP and the RSS. They also want to discredit Dalit ascension. They want to use Naxals to discredit any Dalit movement,” he added.

He announced that Dalits would hit the streets in protests against these arrests on September 5.

Mevani sought to know why First Information Reports were filed against the activists when RPI leader and the minister in the NDA government Ramdas Athwale made it clear those participated in the Elgaar Parishad held in Bhima Koregaon were not involved in the Naxal movement. “So the question is, why are they named in the FIR?”

Noted lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan cautioned that “The murder of democracy by fascists happens slowly, by attacking human rights bit by bit and we need to understand this. When the escalation of fascism happens slowly, people do not realise what is happening.”

Aruna Roy, the founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, said critical voices were being suppressed, and pointed out that the arrests marked a constitutional breakdown.

Safai Karmachari Andolan, national convener Bezwada Wilson alleged that whenever there is a Dalit assertion the state itself is opposing who have been suppressed and subjugated for 5000 years.

“We want to celebrate the victory symbol in Bhima Koregaon, what is the wrong? For the first time Dalits have something to celebrate, instead of that you oppose. This is a question of freedom,” Wilson said.

Harish Dhawan PUCL), Kalyani Menon Sen (Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression), Kavita Sarivastava and ND Pancholi (PUCL), Advocate Sanjay Parikh, and orders also addressed the media.

In a joint statement, signed by more 40 organizations, the group said “We, the undersigned, strongly oppose and condemn the illegal raids carried out in different cities, and arrests of Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao by the Maharashtra Police on 28 August 2018. These are only the most recent arrests in a continuing wave of repression spearheaded by the police at the behest of their political leaders and their communal and casteist agendas against people’s movements and human rights defenders.

The targeting of these democratic rights activists and organizations is an attack on the poor and marginalized sections of our society on whose behalf these activists have been raising their voices.”

The statement also pointed out” “Significantly, the two accused, habitual offender Milind Ekbote and godman, Sambhaji Bhide in the Bhima Koregaon case who were named in the very first FIR have never been penalized under UAPA. The Maharashtra government has in fact refused to prosecute Bhide.”

It is to mention that the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the activists’ transit remand and ordered them to remain under house arrest till the next hearing on September 6.

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