On 6th June, the Pune police arrested five human rights activists – namely, Professor Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Surendra Gadling – under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
All these five persons have been arrested for allegedly engaging in “unlawful activities”, without any shred of evidence of any crime. They are being charged with having had a hand in the violence unleashed on a Dalit rally at Bhima Koregaon on 1st January 2018. The official propaganda to justify their arrests is that they are allegedly sympathetic to the views of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Any person or political party may or may not agree with a particular ideology, be it Marxism or Maoism or Hindutva or anything else. However, it is not acceptable in a modern democracy that the State should consider it to be “unlawful activity” for someone to believe in a particular ideology. Arresting someone because of his or her beliefs is a blatant attack on the right to conscience.
Those who are fighting in defence of the rights of workers, peasants, tribal peoples and victims of caste oppression are all being treated by the Indian State as criminal “anti-national” elements. Those who expose and oppose all manifestations of state terrorism and uphold the rights of the people are being arrested on concocted charges.
Thousands of innocent people are currently rotting in the jails, arrested under the UAPA. The UAPA allows the police to arbitrarily arrest and detain a person for an indefinite period, without any need for presenting any evidence before a court of law that a crime has actually been committed.
Beginning with the Preventive Detention Act of 1950, the Indian Parliament has enacted numerous fascist laws since then, each more draconian than the one it replaced. The Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), National Security Act (NSA), Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA), Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) are all examples of laws to deprive people of their rights. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been retained from colonial times and been in operation for decades on end in the Northeast and in Kashmir.
The ruling class is using all such laws to terrorise the broad masses of people into giving up their struggle for rights.
The situation calls upon all political forces who are concerned about the fate and future of India to unite and fight against state terrorism, in defence of human rights and democratic rights, including national rights.
The arrests of the five rights activists on trumped up charges, accompanied by the propaganda that they sympathize with Maoism, deserves to be condemned by all progressive and democratic organisations in the country.