‘What is happening is absolutely perilous’. Reactions to activists’ arrests

On Tuesday morning, Pune police raided the homes of several activists in across the country –Anand Teltumbde in Goa, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai; Gautam Navlakha in Delhi; Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad; Stan Swamy in Ranchi; Varavara Rao and his family members, Kranti Tekula and Naseem in Hyderabad. By Tuesday evening, at least five of them had been arrested.

The raids are connected to the investigation into a public meeting organised the day before caste-related violence erupted in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1.

The raids have invited condemnation from several corners. Here are some reponses.

Arundhati Roy

The simultaneous state-wide arrests are a dangerous sign of a government that fears it is losing its mandate and is falling into panic. That lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals are being arrested on ludicrous charges while those who make up lynch mobs and threaten and murder people in broad daylight roam free, tells us very clearly where India is headed. Murderers are being honoured and protected. Anybody who speaks up for justice or against Hindu majoritarianism is being made into a criminal. What is happening is absolutely perilous. In the run up to elections, this is an attempted coup against the Indian Constitution and all the freedoms that we cherish.

Ramchandra Guha

This is absolutely chilling. This is being done not only to intimidate and silence those detained but also those who could potentially come to their legal rescue. The courts must intervene to stop this persecution and harassment of independent voices. Sudha Bharadwaj is as far from violence and illegality as Amit Shah is close to those things. As a biographer of Gandhi, I have no doubt that if the Mahatma was alive today, he would don his lawyer’s robes and defend Bharadwaj in court; that is assuming the Modi Sarkar hadn’t yet detained and arrested him too.

Aakar Patel, (Amnesty International India)

Today’s raids and arrests raise disturbing questions about whether these people are being targeted for their activism. This cannot become a routine. The government should protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear.

Rahul Gandhi

There is only place for one NGO in India and it’s called the RSS. Shut down all other NGOs. Jail all activists and shoot those that complain.

Sitaram Yechury

It is an indication that the Modi govt wants to silence people and that no dissent will be tolerated and anyone raising their voice against this govt will be silenced.

Swara Bhasker

It is a crime to be poor in #NewIndia. It is a crime to help the poor in #NewIndia #BhimaKoregaon #BhimaKoregaonRaids

Indira jaising

One day there will be no one left to defend the rule of law,one day there will be no rule of law left to defend.

Shabnam Hashmi

Strongly condemn raids on human right defenders’ homes since Morning in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Telangana, Delhi, Goa. Stop harassing HRDs! Condemn Modi’s authoritarian regime.

Prashant Bhushan

This is totally fascist. It is an attempt to silence dissent and intimidate activists. These activists are well-known for their work on issues of public interest. There is no question of them being involved in this case. This is happening on the instructions of this [Narendra Modi] government. It will have to be challenged in the High Court or the Supreme Court.

Joint Statement condemning arrest of activists and public intellectuals:

We, the undersigned, are shocked by the serial raids across the countrൈy 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 Republic TV 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 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.

Shehla Rashid Shora, former Vice-President, JNU Students’ Union.

Mohit Pandey, former President, JNU Students’ Union.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Author, Journalist, Publisher.

Neha Dixit, Journalist.

Sanjiv Bhatt (IPS), Crusader against Hatred and Authoritarian Repression

Jignesh Mevani, MLA Vadgam, Gujarat.

Sanam Sutirath Wazir, Human Rights Activist.

Nakul Singh Sawhney, Documentary Filmmaker.

Teesta Setalvad, Journalist and Social Activist.

Harish Iyer, Equal Rights Activist.

Swami Agnivesh, Arya Samaj, Social Activist.

Admiral L Ramdas

Lalita Ramdas

Shabnam Hashmi, Sovial Activist.

Sanghamitra Malik

Jasveen Jairath

Kinnera Murthy

L.Ravichander

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