Demanding appropriate action against Maharashtra police for launching a “vicious and malafide attack” against human rights activists, leading intellectuals and civil society members on Thursday called for an immediate end to “such political acts of vendetta”.
The arrests of the five activists highlight the violation of all due procedures and is a mockery of the legal system, said a joint statement signed by author Arundhati Roy, lawyer Prashant Bhushan as well as activists Aruna Roy and Jignesh Mevani among others. They have demanded that police return the laptops and mobiles seized during the “illegal arrest” of the activists.
“These are only the most recent arrests in a continuing wave of repression spearheaded by the police at the behest of their political leaders and their communal and casteist agendas against people’s movements and human rights defenders,” said the joint statement. The targeting of these democratic rights activists and organisations, the statement said, is an attack on the poor and marginalised sections of the society.
The statement comes a day after the Supreme Court directed that the five activists be kept under house arrest. Issuing notice to the Maharashtra government, the apex court observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy… if it is not allowed, the pressure cooker will burst”.
“They want to divert attention from real issue and discredit the dalit movement. The so call Maoist plot to Kill the prime minister is an effort to garner sympathy. Dalits will hold protest rallies at various places on September 5 against the government,” Mevani said at a press conference.
“What is happening today is more dangerous than the emergency,” Bhushan added.
They have also demanded unconditional withdrawal of FIR lodged against the arrested human rights activists and also called for repealing the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Probing an alleged Maoist link to a meeting of the ‘Elgar Parishad’ conclave in Pune on the eve of the January 1 violence in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra police arrested Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, and raided the homes of several others.
With PTI inputs