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New Delhi: CPI(M) MP Elamaran Kareem on February 1 sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the immediate release of activists and academics who have been arrested in the Elgar Parishad case in light of reports that some of them were targets of cyber-attacks which planted “incriminating documents”
The letter, signed by 19 other MPs from the CPI, Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam, Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Janata Dal, Kerala Congress (M) and the Indian Union Muslim League, expresses “deep concern at the media and cyber-forensic expert reports indicating that Indian citizens have been attacked with illegal cyber weapons”.
It refers to the recent New York Times report which said that India had purchased the Pegasus spyware and also The Wire‘s reports which revealed that “incriminating documents” were remotely planted on the computers of activists who were arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is investigating the case, has relied on the “overly broad provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to oppose bail”, the MPs’ letter said.
“Given the revelations regarding cyber-attacks and the planting of evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case, it is only fair and just that the activists arrested under UAPA in the Bitma Koregaon case should at least be granted bail. However, the NIA under the direction of your government has been opposing bail. We urge you to take immediate remedial measures to address this blatant injustice pending withdrawal of the cases against them,” it adds.
In all, 16 persons have been arrested in the case. One of them, Father Stan Swamy, died in custody due to COVID-19. The others who have been arrested are Sudhir Dhawale, a writer and Mumbai-based Dalit rights activist; Mahesh Raut, a young activist from Gadchiroli who worked on displacement; Shoma Sen, who had been head of the English literature department at Nagpur University; advocates Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj; writer Varavara Rao; activist Vernon Gonsalves; prisoners’ rights activist Rona Wilson; Surendra Gadling, a UAPA expert and lawyer from Nagpur; Delhi University professor Hany Babu and Kabir Kala Manch artists Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jagtap.