Free Human Rights Activists in India

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Early on the morning of Tuesday 28th August in simultaneous, concerted actions in Mumbai, Goa, Delhi, Ranchi and Hyderabad, individuals were arrested and homes raided. Those arrested were: Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, and Varavara Rao. Their homes were also searched and materials removed. Those whose homes were raided, or who were humiliated include: K. Satyanarayan, Anand Teltumbde, Father Stan Swamy, Kranthi Tekula, K.V. Kumarnath, and Susan Abraham. Last Tuesday’s arrests follow the arrests in June this year of five others on the same charges: Surendra Gadling, Suhdir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, and Mahesh Raut. All these individuals are lawyers, intellectuals, and activists from many communities and different walks of life, who have dedicated their lives to the service of Dalits, workers, the poor and marginalized, and are advocates and proponents of civil liberties and democratic rights.

For months now in India a reign of terror has been unleashed with state complicity against Muslims and minorities. The government at the Centre and in some states is dominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an ethno-nationalist party committed to implementing its ideology by making India a “Hindu” nation. They will do whatever it takes to advance their political objectives. And the clock is ticking as the nation heads to the polls in May 2019. Their failure to make good on promises of economic improvements and growth has led them to fall out of favour with many of those who voted for their platform of development and change. As well, their policies of majoritarian tyranny, where there are almost daily incidences of lynchings of Muslims and Dalits have also caused the blinders to fall from many who had supported them. 

Desperate to change the narrative, they are inventing threats to the nation to rally people to their side.  The slightest form of dissent invokes the label “anti-national” or urban Maoist, after which “terrorist” is not slow to follow. They use violence, threats and intimidation to get their way, and are ably assisted by sections of the corporate media. To get compliance they want to create a climate of fear. And they will keep escalating these tactics. Unrestrained social violence and vigilantism is the order of the day: the arrests follow in the wake of recent attacks on other voices for justice such as assaults on Swami Agnivesh and the assassination attempt on student activist Umar Khalid.  A BJP lawmaker from the state of Karnataka recently advocated the murder of “intellectuals”.

When those who have a record of defending the victims of state violence in courts and forming committees to investigate massacres and human rights violations are now the targets, a very, very dangerous threshold has been crossed. Every vestige of democratic functioning is in jeopardy. 


Centre sur l’asie du sud (CERAS), Montréal ∙ DESSA (Democracy, Equality and Secularism in South Asia), Winnipeg ∙   Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), Vancouver ∙ India Civil Watch-Canada ∙ Punjabi Literary and Cultural Association, Winnipeg ∙ South Asia Left Democratic Alliance (SALDA), Toronto ∙ East India Defence Committee (EIDC)), Vancouver; South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), Vancouver;




We, Indians in Diaspora and otherCanadians rom many walks of life are deeply concerned about the erosion of democracy in India and the violation of the constitutional rights of its citizens exemplified by the arrests of and raids on some of the most prominent champions of democracy, human rights, and civil liberties in India in August and earlier in June. As these arrests and raids take place in the context of violence against minorities such as lynching and murder, assassination of journalists and intellectuals, assassination attempt on a student activist, and assaults on a prominent Hindu monk advocating the values enshrined in the Indian constitution, they are an ominous portent. We appeal to you in the interest of democracy to uphold the Constitution of India and demand the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, and activists arrested in June and August under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and various sections of the IPC.


Chinmoy Banerjee, New Westminster, BC, Canada