The nationwide crackdown on activists, advocates and human rights defenders is disturbing and threatens core human rights values, Amnesty International India and Oxfam India today said jointly in response to the massive crackdown on rights activists in the country by the Maharashtra state police.
“Today’s arrests is the second of such crackdowns on rights activists, advocates and journalists who have been critical of the state. All these people have history of working to protect the rights of some of India’s most poor and marginalized people. Their arrests raise disturbing questions about whether they are being targeted for their activism,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.
“These arrests cannot become the order of the day. The government should protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear,” said Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India.
According to media reports, the Maharashtra state police have arrested Chhattisgarh-based human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, Maharashtra-based social activist Vernon Gonsalves, former secretary of People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) Gautam Navlakha, Maharashtra-based activist Arun Ferreira, and Telangana journalist Varavara Rao. The premises of several other activists like Anand Tetlumbde and Father Stan Swamy were also raided.
In June this year, five activists were arrested on the suspicion of inciting caste-based violence on 1 January in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra. Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and several sections of the Indian Penal Code.
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