Chandrashekhar Azad’s Right To Peacefully Challenge Existing Caste Norms Must Be Respected
Bengaluru/New Delhi: 14 September 2018 3:47 pm
The release of Bhim Army leader, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ is a first step by the Uttar Pradesh government towards ensuring equal rights for Dalit women and men who are challenging caste-based violence and discrimination, said Amnesty International India today.
“We are delighted that Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ has been released and will finally be reunited with his loved ones. He has been in jail since November 2017 without charge or trial. The Uttar Pradesh government must now ensure that Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ is not targeted for his work to empower Dalit communities and, is not detained again without a fair trial”, said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India.
“While this development is wonderful news, similar steps need to be taken across the country for human rights defenders who are being targeted under repressive laws,” said Asmita Basu.
Speaking to the media outside Saharanpur jail, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ said “The government was scared that they would be rebuked by the Supreme Court for arresting me so they have decided to release me early. I’m very sure that they will re-arrest me again within 10 days”.
Amnesty International India believes that these are legitimate apprehensions. Chandrasekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ was first arrested on 8 June 2017, for his alleged involvement in the 2017 Saharanpur riots. On 2 November 2017, the Allahabad High Court granted him bail. While granting bail, the court observed that cases against him appeared to be politically motivated. However, a day later, before he could be released from jail, he was arrested again. This time under the draconian National Security Act (NSA).
“Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ had told an Amnesty India delegation, on 10 September, that he feared that he would be re-arrested by the Uttar Pradesh government, on release. His re-arrest will indeed, raise disturbing questions about him being targeted for his activism. It is essential for courts to protect fair trial guarantees of all persons and ensure that the criminal justice system is not undermined”, Asmita Basu said.
“The impact of Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ is his ability to mobilise supporters in large numbers to stand up against caste-based oppression. To detain a young leader of a marginalised community, and for him to fear that he will be detained further without charge, sends a message to the Dalit communities that the government doesn’t appreciate their assertion of their rights”, said Aakar Patel.
Over 160,000 people across India had supported Amnesty International India’s campaign calling on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to release Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’. The petition which was launched on 4 April, requests people to give a missed call to 080-3045-6566 to show their support for Bhim Army leader, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’.
Administrative detention laws allow for people to be detained without charge or trial. Under international law, administrative detention is only permitted in exceptional circumstances and when subjected to stringent safeguards. In India, administrative detention laws such as the National Security Act (NSA) have often been used to detain individuals on vague grounds, ignoring regular criminal justice safeguards. The Supreme Court of India has described the system of administrative detention as “lawless.” Amnesty International opposes all systems of administrative detention.
Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh state police under the NSA, on 3 November 2017, a day after he was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court in relation to a prior arrest. He was first arrested on 8 June 2017, and was charged with allegedly being involved in rioting, inciting violence and destroying public property, among other offences, following clashes between protesting Dalits and dominant caste groups. The unrest followed the killing of two Dalit men and the burning of at least 50 Dalit homes in Shabbirpur village, Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh, by men from a dominant caste in April and May 2017. He remained in detention for over four months, before he and 14 other arrested Dalit activists were granted bail on 2 November. Newspaper reports had quoted the judge saying that the charges against Chandrashekhar Azad appeared to have been politically motivated.
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