Release the Human Rights Activists arrested by Pune Police officials

Release the Human Rights Activists arrested by Pune Police officials

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Pune police has arrested five activists – Gautam Navalakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves – for their alleged involvement in instigating the Bhima Koregaon violence in Maharashtra in January.

The arrests are a clear attempt to silence dissenting voices, who have fought for the rights of the dispossessed, marginalised and poor for decades.

Those who have been arrested include:

1. Gautam Navalakha (Human Rights activist and journalist New Delhi). He was the President of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights and has been has been associated with the Economic and Political Weekly. He is a known commentator on current affairs. The state relied upon him to negotiate the safe return of persons abducted by left wing extremists in Chhattisgarh.

2. Sudha Bharadwaj (Advocate, Bilaspur High Court, currently residing in Faridabad) Prominent cause lawyer of Bilaspur High Court who has represented workers, poor and marginal farmers and others in Chhattisgarh. She is the national general secretary of PUCL and since 2017 been teaching at the National Law University, Delhi. As a member of the Indian Association of People’s lawyers, advocated Sudha Bharadwaj was vocal against the arrest of lawyers like Surendra Gadling in recent times. Sudha Bharadwaj has been a member of committees and provided legal aid and is a recognised human rights defender.

3. Varavara Rao (Age 79, based in Hyderabad, political worker, commentator and renowned poet) He was a professor of English and Telegu literature.

4. Arun Ferreira (Mumbai) Practising as a lawyer since 2015 and a Human Rights activist

5. Vernon Gonsalves (Mumbai), Gold medalists from Bombay University in Commerce, accounts officer at Siemens, then lecturer of accounts in Maharastra College, writer and columnist. His translation of Annabhau Sathe’s Gold from the Grave from Marathi to English published in David Davidar’s “A Clutch of Indian masterpieces”.

The arrests of these very well known human rights activists and dissenting voices on the basis of an investigation into Bhima Koregaon events which they did not attend and had nothing to do with is clearly malafide and an attempt to silence dissenting voices and intimidate human rights activists in the country. The arrests and raids on them clearly violates fundamental rights guaranteed to law abiding citizens under article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

I urge that the Supreme Court of India which has given a reprieve to these activists by ordering their house arrest instead of detention by Police to free these activists.

I also urge the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi and Home Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh to urgently look into this issue and stop this violation of human rights of these Human Rights Defenders.


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