New Delhi: The PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Janhastakshep and Citizens for Democracy have collectively authored a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging the release of intellectuals, writers, professors, students, anti-CAA activists implicated in the Elgar Parishad case and for the February Delhi violence. The signatories have also requested the repeal of the Citizenship Amendment Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, along with the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir.
“On behalf of our civil liberty organizations we bring to your kind notice the alarming situation in the country. In the midst of growing poverty and unemployment coupled with the miseries wrought by the present pandemic, the state apparatus is busy in making continuous assault on the fundamental rights of the people,” the letter says.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties is a human rights body formed in India in 1976 by socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan. Janhastakshep is a people’s intervention group “against fascism.”
The three organisations had planned to hold a demonstration on Friday at Jantar Mantar to raise these demands. However, they were informed a day before, that the gathering for demonstration would not be allowed due to restrictions imposed on account of COVID-19.
The participants of the protest had been informed about this, however, two protesters, unaware of the latest circular had reached Jantar Mantar and held banners with their demands. According to the protesters, there was heavy police presence. Amit Srivastava, one of the protesters, was taken away by police in a van. When PUCL head N.D. Pancholi reached the spot, police told him, “We will neither allow any banner nor any protester. Not even a single protester would be allowed.”
According to Pancholi, the protest spot at Jantar Mantar was surrounded by police barricades on all sides. Srivastava was later released by the police. “Even though we couldn’t protest, we were allowed to submit our memorandum to the President of India.”
The memorandum further read, “Large number of young students are being falsely implicated for participating in peaceful protests against Citizens Amendment Act,2019. The real culprits involved in inciting the recent violence in Delhi are moving freely and victims of the violence are being made accused. The police in Delhi under the control of the Home Minister at the Centre is being misused against innocent social activists and members of the minority community.”
Referring to the investigation by Delhi police into the Delhi riots, the letter says, “The proceedings relating to the recent Delhi violence pending in various courts is sought to be manipulated towards one particular end – even a court had expressed its surprise the way the Delhi police is proceeding violating the established procedures and norms for fair investigation.”
Talking about BJP leaders Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur, the letter further accused Delhi police of protecting them. There has been no complaint registered against either yet. “The political leaders who openly expressed provocative communal slogans against members of a minority community and peaceful anti-CAA protesters and who did their most to incite the violence are being unashamedly protected,” it said.
Referring to the arrests of Anand Teltumbde, Sudha Bhardwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, it said, “The situation relating to human rights prevailing all over India is also very dismal. Intellectuals, writers, human right activists, journalists, who raise their voices in favour of the downtrodden, weak and minorities are sought to be silenced by implicating them in false cases. About 12 such academicians, writers, professors, human right activists, advocates are in prison of the last many months, some of them even going to complete two years of detention… Two years have passed but even charges have not been framed in court. In this manner it might take decades for the case to reach final conclusion. UAPA is being flagrantly misused for arresting the innocents and keeping them in jail for years.”
Calling the CAA and the reading down of Article 370 in Kashmir “calculated attempts to destroy our constitutional values,” the letter further called it an “assault on our constitution” and said that the action violates all values enshrined in our “glorious humanist traditions.”
The letter also criticised the media for “competing with each other in spreading hate and venom against one community to the enjoyment of concerned governmental agencies whose task is to curb hateful campaigns.”