By National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
Release all political prisoners, including Sudha Bharadwaj who has been imprisoned for 2 years!
Arrest the real criminals of ‘Bhima Koregaon’!
Repeal the UAPA Law!
28th August 2020: In India’s dark history of human rights violations, 28th August 2018 has become a very important day. On this day, Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested by Pune police from her home in Faridabad. On the same day, Gautam Navlakha from Delhi, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves from Mumbai and Varavara Rao from Hyderabad were also arrested. Although Gautam Navlakha was granted relief from arrest for a while by the Delhi High Court, he was also arrested a few months ago. In the ‘Bhima Koregaon case’, baseless and false facts have been used to fabricate a criminal case.
These arrests are a shameful attempt to divert attention from the criminal acts of Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, who are the leading perpetrators of Hindutva violence against Dalits in Bhima Koregaon, and to suppress the voices of social activists, critical of the government.
A total of 12 well-known social activists have been arrested so far in this case. Besides those mentioned above, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Dr. Anand Teltumbde and Hany Babu have also been incarcerated. All of them have been falsely accused of ‘inciting violence’ in Bhima Koregaon (a city near Pune) on 1st January 2018. Notably, this day was marked as the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon war. In this war in 1818, Dalits had defeated the Peshwas. This is an important day for the Dalit movement. Thousands of people gather in Bhima Koregaon on this day.
It is noteworthy that all those arrested not only believe in a progressive world-view but also live those ideals on a daily basis! It is sad that despite the blatantly visible state conspiracy against these poets, lawyers, teachers, social and human rights activists, working selflessly since decades, the Courts are neither quashing the charges against them not is it granting them bail. Keeping many such elderly persons imprisoned in jail even during the Covid pandemic shows the cruelty of this fascist government! Apart from these 12 people, the NIA is harassing many more human rights activists and journalists under the pretext of ‘investigation’!
Sudha Bharadwaj was working with the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha for around 35 years. She continuously raised the issues of Adivasis and workers. Realizing the need for lawyers, she completed her legal studies. She became a successful human rights lawyer who worked for the rights of thousands of families. Today, workers as well as members of the Adivasi community in Chhattisgarh’s Bhilai and other factory areas greatly feel her absence. We, the people’s movements from across the country, stand with them in solidarity.
In today’s environment of repression, we greatly feel the absence of Sudha and everyone arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case. Keeping detainees in jail without trial for two years, intentionally delaying bail, dragging their health into serious crisis instead of starting a trial in the case, is also a gross violation of prisoners’ rights. During a global pandemic, the crowded conditions in the jails has increased the threat to their health even more.
As we all witnessed recently, it was only after immense pressure from thousands of people around the world that the government admitted 80-year-old, sick Varavara Rao to a good hospital! Till then, his life was literally put at risk! Right now, it has been reported that according to the medical report of the jail, Sudha Bharadwaj is suffering from ischemic heart disease, which is caused by narrowing of arteries in the heart. This could mean there is a lack of blood flow to the heart muscles which can cause a heart attack. This is extremely worrying.
According to her daughter Maaysha, Sudha Bhardwaj had no heart related complaint before being taken into custody on 28th August 2018. Although she has diabetes and blood pressure, and also had tuberculosis a few years ago, due to which she is at greater risk of infection from Covid than others. Detainees in her barracks have been given only a mask to protect against corona virus infection. It is impossible to maintain adequate physical distance from each other in a crowded barrack. Byculla Jail has said that to maintain the physical distancing norms, the jail can hold a maximum of 175 inmates – despite this, as of 28th July, there were 257 inmates in this jail. The doctor and superintendent of this prison were found to be coronavirus positive. It is a matter of surprise that even after 11 hearing dates in two and a half months on Sudha’s special bail petition, a decision has not been made yet.
The latest news is that today Sudha’s bail application has been rejected again. Two medical reports from Byculla Jail were presented before a judge of the Mumbai High Court. The first described her health condition as serious and also mentioned her heart disease. Then another medical report was released 1-2 days ago, in which she was shown as being ‘completely healthy’. Sudha’s lawyer told the court that a heart disease is not cured by itself so soon. But the court refused to recognize the contradiction in the two reports and rejected bail on the basis of the second report !
National Alliance of People’s Movements condemns the arrest and baseless allegations made against Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Dr. Anand Teltumbde, Surendra Gadling, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, and Hany Babu! We express solidarity with them and all political prisoners across the country who are being made victims of repressive laws like UAPA and ‘sedition’!
The hearing in the Bhima Koregaon has not started yet. All this is just an attempt to deflect the concerns and questions of poor, dalit, oppressed and exploited classes, adivasis, farmers and working classes, and a violation of the human rights of social workers, lawyers and human rights activists who bring those concerns to the national and international level. It is a whole conspiracy to torment them and break their morale. Today, efforts are being made to suppress every voice that is challenging this corporate-Hindutva government! But it is important for the common people to expose these conspiracies of the government and stand firm on the issues of education, health, employment, peace and justice!
We demand that:
· All political prisoners in the Bhima Koregaon case should be released. Especially given the threat of Covid-19, they should be given immediate bail.
· Strict action should be taken against the leading perpetrators of the Bhima Koregaon violence, Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide.
· Jail authorities are appealed to reduce crowding in jails, conduct regular Covid testing of all prisoners and take all measures to protect against Covid in the jail.
· Repressive laws like UAPA and sedition should be repealed.
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