Mr. Ravi Kiran Jain, National President
Dr. V. Suresh, National General Secretary
PUCL also denounces the simultaneous multi-city raids conducted today, 28th August 2018 in a concerted and pre- meditated manner across the country at the premises of other eminent human rights activists including:
Father Stan Swamy in Jharkhand;
Senior Writer and Poet Varavara Rao, as also the houses of his two daughters and sons-in-law, Anala and the Hindu journalist KV Kumaranath; and Pavana and her husband, Prof. Satyanarayana, of English and Foreign Languages University;
Namaste Telangana journalist Kranthi Tekula in Hyderabad;
AnandTeltumbde in Goa;
Gautam Navalakha in Delhi,
Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Susan Abraham, Advocates in Mumbai.
PUCL asserts that the arrests and raids are nothing but a targeted 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;
PUCL stands firmly in solidarity with advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, National Secretary, PUCL and the other human rights activists who face raids and have been arrested under false and fabricated charges. We would like to point out that in a Habeas Corpus petition filed before the Delhi High Court, his transfer on transit warrant to Pune has been stayed pending further hearing of the habeas corpus petition tomorrow 29th August, and he is currently under house arrest. As per sources, Anand Teltumbde's house in Goa was raided by the police in a completely illegal manner, in his absence, after procuring keys from the security guard. While some news channels state that the raids and arrest have been made in the Pune case of Bhima Koregaon caste violence, where the prime accused are Hindutva right wing groups and leaders who are enjoying state impunity and at large, some other news agencies are alleging that the arrests are linked to claims of alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
It is pertinent to note that just last month on 4th July 2018, a scurrilous, motivated, fabricated and malicious media propaganda and hate campaign was run by Republic TV and its anchor Ms. Shivani Gupta, Deputy Editor Mr. Shrawan Sen and its Managing Director, Mr. Arnab Goswami, by way of a series of programmes presented as “Super Exclusive Breaking News” and also showcased by way of a national debate on Prime Time TV. Relying on a fabricated letter allegedly addressed by her to a Maoist named 'Comrade Prakash', the channel repeatedly aired, completely false, unsubstantiated and scurrilous accusations against Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, falsely profiling her as “Urban Naxal”. The allegations were categorically denied by Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj in her rebuttal statement. The programmes were aired with headers of“#UrbanNaxalsExposed” and similar allegations were made against other human rights activists like Mr. Gautam Navlakha in part 2 of the programme, via a second letter supposedly procured by the Channel. PUCL has previously issued a statement dated 7th July 2018 strongly condemning the incident and demanding strict action against the Channel. Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj also issued a legal notice in respect of the Channel's illegal acts.
The current arresta and raids are taking place in the backdrop of the arrests of five human rights activists – Advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale – who were also arrested under UAPA on 6th June 2018, relying on a similar fabricated letter produced by Republic TV allegedly addressed to the same "Comrade Prakash", in the same Pune case. Following this, on 7thJune 2018, Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj had addressed a press conference organized by the Indian Association of People's Lawyers (IAPL) in New Delhi to condemn the arrest of Advocate Surendra Gadling of the Nagpur High Court. Susan Abraham, Arun Fererreia and Vernon Gonsalves are in fact representing the Bhima Koregaon accused in Court.
Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj has been a dedicated trade unionist for more than three decades and has served as a general secretary of its Chhattisgarh branch, during which time the branch did remarkable work in the State. She is also associated with the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, which was founded by the late Shankar Guha Niyogi.
She started her legal practice in the year 2000 and has since, fought innumerable cases of workers, farmers, adivasis and poor people in the fields of labour, land acquisition, forest rights and environmental rights. Since the year2007,shehasbeenpracticing in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur and was nominated by the High Court to be a member of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority. She also supported young lawyers to set up the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group as a civil society initiative to provide legal aid to incarcerated Tribals. She is a visiting faculty at the National Law University Delhi, where she teaches the course on tribal rights and land acquisition.
PUCL believes that the intention of the state and police in targeting the aforesaid human rights activists by foisting false and fabricated cases against them, is clear and apparent from their profiles of work. All the aforesaid human rights activists targeted in this multi-city “operation” by the police have been tirelessly involved in advocating the cause and fighting for the rights of the most poor, marginalized sections of society against serious state violations and unscrupulous corporates. They have stood for the principles of human rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the international standards on human rights.
PUCL strongly condemns the actions of the state and police. This simultaneous crackdown against human rights activists across the country signals the imposition of an unofficial Emergency in our nation and is a direct attack on Indian democracy. This is a deliberate strategy of the state to target noted human rights activists in a clear act of reprisals against them for calling out the human rights violations by the state and police, and to intimidate those who are fighting for justice.
PUCL cautions the public at large on the concerted efforts underway to stifle voices of dissent and threaten the democratic fabric of the country. In light of the above, PUCL makes the following urgent demands:
PUCL calls upon the state and the police to immediately and unconditionally release human rights activists, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navalakha, Anand Teltumbde, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, and Vernon Gonsalves and withdraw the false and fabricated case against them;
PUCL calls upon the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to urgently intervene to ensure the release of the human rights activists and to order an immediate, transparent, effective and impartial investigation into the simultaneous multi-city raids and arrests of the human rights activists by the state and the policeon false and fabricated accusations and charges ;
PUCL also calls upon the democratic minded citizens of India to condemn the unprincipled manner in which human rights activists are being targeted and oppose such insidious and collusive attempts by State agencies and media outfits to silence human rights activists against the vindictive State policies and action ;
PUCL further condemns the constant profiling as “Urban Naxals/ Maoists” and criminalisation of human rights activists working tirelessly against the state's anti-people actions and policies, in an attempt to malign them and influence public sentiment.