At a press conference organised by human rights body People’s Union for Civil Liberties, 11 eminent personalities including Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and MPs Shashi Tharoor (Congress), Supriya Sule (NCP), and Kanimozhi (DMK) have called for united action in demanding the repeal of the draconian UAPA and condemned “illegal arrests” in Bhima-Koregaon case.
“UAPA is being misused to silence voices who believe in democracy and secularism,” said Kanimozhi MP.
“We have to come together, putting aside all our differences, and fight against draconian laws which suppress us, and these laws have to be repealed” she added.
The press conference participants were also included CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D. Raja, economist Jean Dreze, Dr Marianus Kujur, the director of the Ranchi-based Xavier Institute of Social Sciences, activists Dayamani Barla and Rupali Jadhav, and lawyer Mihir Desai.
Yechury said the UAPA has been grossly misused and just like the POTA, should be repealed.
CPI’s Raja also said that his party will continue to oppose UAPA and sedition laws.
They expressed solidarity with 83-year-old Jesuit priest and human rights activist Stan Swamy, who has been detained under UAPA in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case along with several other activists.
A total of 16 people have been arrested in the case so far. In 2018, as part of a massive crackdown on human rights defenders in India, 9 prominent activists– Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, and Varavara Rao were arrested by the Pune Police in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case. Two years later, the crackdown on human rights defenders continues with the arrests of Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, and Stan Swamy.
Soren who claimed that the arrest of Swamy has “crossed all limits”, further said: “The NDA government sitting in the Centre today is silencing the voices of those speaking for the Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalised groups, the non-BJP ruled states are being harassed, the various constitutional mechanisms of our country are being weakened today by different groups and organisations for its own political benefit under a hidden agenda. It is forcing us to ponder about where the country is headed.”
Congress’s Tharoor urged the government to release Swamy immediately.
“The charges are preposterous and at his age he deserves our respect and support,” he said.
NCP leader Sule said that it is a shame that everytime someone speaks up against the government, he/she is being targeted and attacked.
“This is an unannounced Emergency. This is a challenging time. We must raise our voice. We must not leave this task unfinished,” Sule said.