A year after nine activists were arrested for their alleged Maoist links, they are yet to come out on bail.

Heroes who fight for your rights Amnesty seeks release of Bhima Koregaon activists
news Human Rights Friday, June 07, 2019 - 15:40

Last year, the Pune police arrested human rights lawyers and activists from across the country for their allegedly having Maoist links. A year later, the nine people arrested on June 6 and the subsequent weeks are still struggling to get bail. Human rights organisation Amnesty International has now launched a campaign batting for the nine - Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao – to be freed pending their trial.

Following their arrests, Amnesty alleges that there was a smear campaign against the activists. “The government claims they are ‘anti-nationals’ working against the country. However, the opinion of communities, where the activists work, is entirely different. In these communities, they are hailed as brave activists, committed to the causes of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the country, like Dalits and Adivasis. Far from being anti-national, the ‘Bhima Koregaon 9’ are for many, national heroes,” it says.

Calling for the release of the nine from Yerwada jail in Pune, pending their trial, Amensty has expressed concern that arrests of these human rights defenders is an attempt to derail the human rights movement in India. “Moreover, indefinitely jailing such prominent figures undermines the broader struggles for justice and equality.”

Calling for people to lend support to the campaign, Amnesty says, “Tell the Indian Prime Minister that attacking activists who are heroes for some of the most marginalised communities in India is not in the nation’s best interest.”

“Let’s show Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the world is watching,” the campaign adds.

You can see the campaign here, and lend your voice by providing your name, email address, and phone number (optional).

Carrying out the arrests in June and August last year, Maharashtra police had claimed that the five activists put on house arrest in August 2018 -- Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira – had Naxal links. The officials alleged that they were in possession of "digital evidence about a larger conspiracy to mobilise cadres for action against security forces". The Pune police had also alleged that the Maoists had plans to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Further, police has named three of them – Sudha, Vernon and Arun – as prime accused in the cases filed pertaining to the Elgar Parishad of December 31, 2017, leading to the Koregaon-Bhima caste riots of January 1, 2018. Besides the Koregaon-Bhima violence, the police charged the accused with having links with Maoist and Kashmiri terror groups, hatching a conspiracy to carry out a high-level political assassination in a 'Rajiv Gandhi-style operation', procuring arms and ammunition, seeking to incite disturbances and violence in the country to topple the democratically elected government.

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