The activists - Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj - were arrested by police on Tuesday.
A number of politicians, civil right activists and rights bodies have reacted to the arrests of five human rights activists in connection with organising ‘Elgaar Parishad’, an event to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2028. The activists – Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj – were arrested by police on Tuesday. There is a sharp divide in opinion between political parties with some supporting these activists, while other terming the arrests as a sensitive issue pertaining to the security of the prime minister. Here is a look at the statements made by various politicians on the issue:
Reacting on the arrests, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that only one NGO – Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh – is allowed to function in the country. “There is only place for one NGO in India and it’s called the RSS. Shut down all other NGOs. Jail all activists and shoot those that complain. Welcome to the new India. #BhimaKoregaon (sic),” Gandhi tweeted.
As Gandhi came out in support of the activists, MoS Home Kiren Rijiju lashed hit back saying that the former supported frontal organisation naxalites. “As Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had declared that Maoists are No.1 threat to India’s internal security… now the Congress president openly supports the front organisations and sympathisers of the Maoists. Keep national security above politics, (sic)” Rijiju tweeted.
The CPIM condemned the raids and accused the BJP-led Centre of “attacking the democratic rights of people” in a bid to shield the real culprits of Koregaon-Bhima violence. “This is a brazen attack on democratic rights and liberties,” Sitaram Yechury said. “The BJP government is desperately trying to protect the culprits by harassing civil and human rights activist. This is very dangerous trend for our democracy,” he added.
The Amnesty International India slammed the government over the police crackdown on human rights activists. “The government should protect people’s right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear,” it said in a tweet.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
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.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has said that the arrests were in violation of the laid-down procedure and so “amounted to human rights violation”. The human rights body served a notice on the Maharashtra government and the Maharashtra Police asking for a factual report in the matter within four weeks.
“It appears, the standard operating procedure in connection with these arrests has not been properly followed by the police authorities, which may amount to the violation of their human rights,” the NHRC was quoted as saying in an IANS report.
Rashtriya Janata Dal
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav also strongly condemned the arrests. “Anyone who defends human rights, raises concerns about atrocities against poor and condemn authoritarian regime is arrested in RSS’s New India. Remember, Fascism will not last longer,” he said in a tweet.
The Maharashtra government, which is at the centre of the controversy, defended the arrests. State’s junior minister of Home Deepak Kesarkar said all procedures were followed before conducting the raids against the activists.
“It is due to their links with naxal movements that they have been arrested. If there was no evidence, we would not have taken the action. We have followed the procedures before conducting raids against these naxal activists,” Kesarkar said.