New Delhi: Academics from several universities across the UK have written an open letter to “voice their alarm” over the arrests of human rights activists in recent times. Describing the recent turn of events as a “consistent and ongoing suppression of intellectual freedoms in India that have escalated to shocking levels in the past four years”, the signatories have called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the activists – Sudha Bharadwaj the National Secretary of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties and defence lawyer at the Bilaspur High Court in Chhattisgarh state, Varavara Rao, a well known Telugu poet, literary critic and social justice activist, Anand Teltumbde, an academic, Dalit intellectual and author of several books, Father Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Catholic priest and campaigner for social justice, Arun Ferreira, a defence lawyer and writer, Vernon Gonsalves a social justice activist and campaigner for release of political prisoners, Gautam Navlakha a journalist and democratic rights activists and others.
They signatories have also stated that these arrests have come on the back of the earlier arrests in June, wherein professor Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Rawat and Rona Wilson were arrested.
Describing the arrests as an “indiscriminate use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to suppress democratic voices”, they have urged that the government stop politically motivated arrests and harassing human rights activists:
We call for the immediate and unconditional release of those arrested in June and August and demand that the charges against them under the UAPA be withdrawn.
We urge the Supreme Court of India to intervene ordering an independent enquiry into the arrest of academics, lawyers and activists in June and August 2018.
We call for the restoration of the rights of free speech and expression and freedom of association and respect for democratic norms and processes.
We stand in solidarity with all those brave and courageous people in India in all walks of life who continue to speak out against the extraordinary levels of suppression of democratic freedoms and constitutional rights in India during these dark times.