NEW DELHI—Condemning the misuse of draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against human rights activists accused in Bhima Koregaon, a number of social and political activists on Wednesday demanded the release of all those arrested in connection with Bhima Koregaon case and demanded repeal of the dreaded UAPA.
Speaking at a virtual press conference organised by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Advocate Mihir Desai, who is fighting the cases of several of those accused in Bhima Koregaon case, said that he had gone through the chargesheets and found them to be flimsy. The police have mentioned a few witnesses but their identities are not clear and whether they existed or not.
Stating that there was no reason to arrest Fr. Stan Swamy as he had not kept anything secret from the police, he said that there was a set pattern in the chargesheets. “If the accused is a Muslim, police say he is a ‘jihadi’. If it is a Christian, they say he is indulging in forced conversion. And then the police would allege their links with Maoists. But Maoists are atheists and it is really ridiculous to say that Maoists would indulge in religious conversion”, Adv Desai said.
Desai is hopeful that all the accused would ultimately be acquitted but the people would have to spend a long time in jail as a punishment. He demanded repeal of UAPA so that it is not misused further.
Condemning the Central government trying “to crush democracy, national unity and integrity, federalism and all democratic institutions”, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said that today all efforts were being made “to suppress the voice of those who fought for the rights of Dalits, Adivasis and poor people”. He alleged that the NDA government at the Centre was also trying to create problems for non-BJP state governments.
Stating that UAPA has been misused by the state authorities, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that it was highly inhuman to arrest octogenarian people like Fr. Stan Swamy and Varavara Rao. Fr. Stan Swamy was arrested two weeks ago from Ranchi in Jharkhand on the allegations that he was having relations with Maoists.
Condemning the targeting of the human rights defenders and political dissenters, DMK’s Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi said that the agencies had levelled false allegations against human rights activists and rival political leaders to prepare cases against them.
Stating that terror laws were being used against many political activists and Opposition leaders, CPI leader D Raja said that “BJP is in power, but it is controlled by the RSS that follows a communal, fascist ideology. It does not believe in Constitution and wants to convert secular India into a theocratic state.”
“The present government is very ruthless; does not believe in rule of law. This government is a calamity for the nation”, he said.
Lok Sabha MP from Maharashtra Supriya Sule said that there was a time in secular India when one could raise one’s voice against those in power. “But it is unfortunate that if you speak against the current regime, you are declared anti-national, you are put in jail. Democratic voices are being crushed”, she stated.
She said that the Maharashtra police was doing very well in Bhima Koregaon case but the case was abruptly taken away by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). “This is a dirty political vendetta”, she said. But she promised to do whatever she could do to seek their release as they are sons of India.
She lamented that there was an undeclared Emergency prevailing in the country today.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor described the arrest of Fr. Stan Swamy as “preposterous”.
“I call upon the government to be fair and release Fr. Stan Swamy. I stand in solidarity with him”, Tharoor said.
Activist Jean Dreze said that 83-year-old Fr Stan Swamy fought for the rights of adivasis, Dalits and the undertrials and today, he himself had become an undertrial and put in jail. He also took part in anti-CAA protests. “That is why the government has arrested him”, he said. He also demanded that UAPA be repealed.
He lamented that the Opposition parties were not very much speaking on the arrest of human rights defenders perhaps because they were themselves being targeted.