NEW DELHI — The nationwide raids and subsequent arrest of five eminent human rights activists, lawyers and writers in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence of last year are seen as diversionary tactics of the BJP governments to divert people’s attention from the recently-exposed terror plot of Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha.
Lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, journalist-academician Gautam Navlakha, writer Arun Ferreira, poet Varavara Raoand and activist Vernon Gonsalves were arrested by the Pune Police on Tuesday.
The police had conducted raids at their residence in Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Delhi, Faridabad and Goa with the charge that they have suspected role behind the 31st Dec 2017 violence in Koregaon in Maharashtra.
The raids and arrest of the activists have invited sharp criticism from people from different walks of life.
In a joint statement, over 100 activists said the five were arrested because they were “critical of the government and the ruling party at the Centre” and they were arrested to create fear among those who are fighting for justice.
“We, the undersigned, are shocked by the serial raids across the country on the homes of activists and public intellectuals who are critical of the government and the ruling party at the Centre. The arrests of prominent activists and intellectuals Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Kranthi Tekula and others, are nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those who are fighting for justice for the marginalised.”
“This is also an attempt by the BJP to invent a false enemy and engage in scaremongering in order to polarise the 2019 elections in its favour. Already, the government and the media houses close to the BJP have been trying to spin a false narrative of a Maoist conspiracy since June, 2018. Terms like “urban naxals” are invented in order to stifle any criticism of the government. We have learnt that the Delhi Police, after having arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, waited for Republic TV to arrive before taking her to the court. This simply shows that the arrests are incomplete without the accompanying sensationalist media propaganda to demonise activists, human rights defenders and intellectuals,” said the activists, journalists and academics including Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Harsh Mandar, Neha Dixit, Jignesh Mevani, Sanam Sutirath Wazir, Nakul Singh Sawhney, Teesta Setalvad, Harish Iyer, Swami Agnivesh, Admiral L Ramdas, Shehla Rashid and Mohit Pandey.
Activists Arrested To Divert Attention From Sanatan Sanstha
In the joint statement, the activists said that the nationwide raids and arrest of activists were done just to divert attention from Sanatan Sanstha.
“This seems like a conspiracy to divert attention from the gravity of the Sanatan Sanstha conspiracy to carry out serial bomb attacks on Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi! The same Sanatan Sanstha was also involved in the murder of Gauri Lankesh, as per the ongoing investigations by Karnataka police. Today’s arrests have been carried out in order to give cover to the murderers of Gauri Lankesh.”
“People like Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and others who have been arrested are friends of the people who have dedicated their entire lives to the betterment of the Indian public. By arresting them, the BJP is only exposing its insecurities and its intolerance to any dissent or criticism of its policies.”
They demanded “immediate release of the arrested individuals, dropping of all false and malicious charges, as these arrests are politically motivated and unjustified.”
PUCL has also strongly condemned the raids on activists and denounces the arrests.
PUCL asserts that the arrests and raids are nothing but a targetted crackdown and attack by the police and state on civil liberties and democratic rights activists across the country in a concerted attempt to crush human rights interventions and silence voices of dissent;
Such systematic and pre-meditated crackdown on human rights activists is unprecedented and unheard of in a democracy and PUCL strongly condemns this unconstitutional crackdown by the state and police.
Earlier on June 6, teams from the Pune police arrested advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen and activist Mahesh Raut from their homes in Nagpur, Sudhir Dhawale in Mumbai and Rona Wilson in Delhi, and brought all five of them to Pune.