DEMAND FOR UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN INDIA
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We strongly and unequivocally condemn the illegal harassment of academicians and activists in India, particularly those invested and engaged in fights for justice on behalf of the most disempowered and marginalized communities of India. We demand that the UN get involved immediately and unconditionally to facilitate the release of all political prisoners in the country. News reports regarding the below arrests and excesses on the part of the government worries us the most:
- Alleging involvement in Bhima Koregaon case, Pune police arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, retired Professor Shoma Sen, poet and publisher Sudhir Dhawale, activists Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson in June 2018. This was followed by the arrest of five more activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha in August the same year. In 2020 April, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Professor Anand Teltumbde, and noted journalist and activist Gautam Navlakha, linking them to the same case. They have all been charged with Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (or UAPA), a draconian act that pushes people into an indefinite period of imprisonment as under trial prisoners, who may or may not be found guilty by the Court, costing innocents precious years of their life. Prof. Hany Babu of Delhi University is the latest to be framed and arrested in connection with this case. In 2019 December, the Government of India introduced and passed a Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA which specifically excluded Muslims from the list of beneficiaries. The government also proposed nationwide NRC on the lines of the citizenship register exercise carried out in the state of Assam, which puts the citizenship status of millions under a shadow of doubt.
- Indian authorities treated all democratic protest against the CAA/NPR/NRC bill with an iron hand to silence all voices of dissent. Around 25 people were killed in police violence against anti CAA / NRC protests in Uttar Pradesh alone. Three were killed in police firings on anti CAA protests in Mangaluru, Karnataka.
- Student protesters Sharjeel Imam, Gulfisha Fatima, Meeran Haider, Safoora Zargar, Shifa-Ur-Rahman, Khalid Saifi, Asif Tanha and Sharjeel Usmani and Ex-Congress councillor Ishrat Jahan have all been arrested in connection with anti-CAA/NRC protests. Safoora Zargar was later released on bail after serious protests rose in the nation inspite of Covid-19 protocols. Dr Kafeel Khan, a physician from Uttar Pradesh, was also arrested, charged for an anti-CAA speech he delivered in Aligarh. Activist Akhil Gogoi and others were arrested in Assam. Delhi Minorities Commission Chairman Zafarul Islam Khan was charged with sedition for a Facebook post and a tweet. Umar Khalid, Meeran Haider, Safoora Zargar, Sharjeel Imam, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Kashmiri photographer / journalist Masrat Zehra have been charged with UAPA. The above mentioned arrests are in addition to the local arrests made in Uttar Pradesh and other places.
- The Delhi violence of February 2020, a communal pogrom unleashed on the minority community, is now being used to target CAA dissenters. The police arrested JMI students Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar, naming them as provocators of the Delhi violence and rioting, which had been led by pro-CAA or anti-Muslim groups.
- Videos of inflammatory speeches made by several right wing leaders prior to the riots, were presented as evidence in the Delhi High Court during a hearing seeking filing of FIRs against them as inciter and participators of the violence, but the case was dismissed and no action was taken.
These incidents clearly point to police and judicial malpractice in the illegal arrests and framing of Academicians, Activists and Students. We believe that the right to dissent is fundamental to any democracy.
We, the undersigned, demand:
- Immediate release of all academics, activists and students. Drop all the fictitious charges levelled against them.
- Stop harassment, intimidation and unlawful custody of Student Activists.
- The Delhi violence charge sheet and arrests appear to be heavily biased, and we demand an independent judicial enquiry about the Delhi violence and the role of Delhi Police in it.
This petition is put forth by University Collective. It aims to bring together the university community across India to express dissent and to sensitize social irregularities and inequalities, envisioning a social order with equal considerations and mutual regard. Support this petition for the release of all political prisoners in India.
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