UN’s rights body demands release of activists in Bhima Koregaon case

The human rights body of the United Nations has urged the Narendra Modi government to release the activists and intellectuals who are in prison for the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case, “at the very least on bail.”

Country’s prominent activists and scholars like Varavara Rao, Fr. Stan Swamy, Anand Teltumbde and Sudha Baradwaj were arrested and remain in custody even as the case is being investigated.

“We continue to be concerned about the situation of activists detained in India, including in the context of the Bhima Koregaon events. We encourage the authorities to release these individuals, at the very least, on bail while they await trial,” the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Friday during a weekly briefing.

UN’s top human rights body also said it encourages the Indian authorities to release arrestees, at the very least on bail while they await trial – in accordance with the OHCHR High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s call to decongest prisons during the pandemic.

The UN body further reiterated “the High Commissioner’s previous call on the Indian Government to ensure no one is detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – and to do its utmost, in law and policy, to protect India’s robust civil society.”

A total of 16 people have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon 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.