Maharashtra: Arrests Of Activists Raise Disturbing Questions

Amnesty International India
Bengaluru/ New Delhi: 6 June 2018 6:34 pm

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Responding to the arrests of five activists from Maharashtra on suspicion of having links with banned Maoist groups, Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India, said:

“These arrests are a matter of grave concern. Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut have a history of working to protect the rights of some of India’s most marginalized people. Their arrests raise disturbing questions about whether they are being targeted for their activism. Anyone arrested for legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

According to media reports, the Maharashtra police have claimed that the activists were “urban Maoist operatives”.

Surendra Gadling is a human rights lawyer and general secretary of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, and has represented activists and others arrested on fabricated charges. Rona Wilson is a member of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, which has campaigned against the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and other repressive laws. Sudhir Dhawale is a Dalit rights activist and the editor of the Marathi magazine ‘Vidrohi’. Shoma Sen is a professor at Nagpur University and Mahesh Raut is a land rights activist.

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, under which the police have arrested the activists, is an abusive law that contains several provisions that violate international human rights standards.

A First Information Report registered on 8 January claimed that Sudhir Dhawale and other Dalit artists from the Kabir Kala Manch, a group of Dalit singers and actors, had sung inflammatory songs and made speeches inciting violence at an event in Pune on 31 December 2017. On 1 January 2018, violence had erupted in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra, where Dalits had gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of a battle where Dalits helped defeat a dominant caste ruler. Many Dalit men and women said they had been attacked by men with saffron shirts and flags.

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