Political leaders write demanding release of those arrested under UAPA

Leaders of eight political parties have written a letter addressed to the President of India condemning the recent spate of arrests of activists and students under the draconian UAPA while the country and the world is reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic. The political leaders have called for an end to the politics of vendetta against protesters and political dissenters.

Stating that the Supreme Court has “advised the release of prisoners on bail or parole to reduce crowding in prisons” during the pandemic, the political leaders have expressed their shock at the Indian Government’s continuing persecution of academics, activists, women, and students, putting their health and safety at grave risk.

The letter added that the Delhi Police, which is directly under the Home Ministry has been arresting “prominent activists including women involved in the totally peaceful anti-CAA movement under the draconian UAPA on totally manufactured  charges seeking to link them with the communal violence in Delhi.” The signatories also expressed their shock at the arrests of activists Gautam Navlakha and academic Anand Teltumbde, terming these arrests as trampling of civil liberties. Not only that, the letter also alleged that “certain communities are being targeted while the perpetrators of communally charged violence, established in various video recordings, including prominent leaders of the ruling party are moving around scot free.”

The letter has been signed by Sitaram Yechury of Communist Party of India (Marxist), D Raja of Communist Party of India, Dipankar Bhattacharya of CPI (Marxist-Leninist), Debabrata Biswas of All India Forward Bloc, Manoj Bhattacharya of Revolutionary Socialist Party, Sharad Yadav of Loktantrik Janata Dal, Manoj Jha of Rashtriya Janata Dal and Thol. Thirumavalavan of Viduthalai Chiruthaigai Katchi.

The complete text of the letter is given below.

The President of India
Rashtrapathi Bhawan
New Delhi

Dear Rashtrapathi ji,

We, the undersigned, are writing to you to express concern and condemnation at the spate of arrests of students and activists under the draconian UAPA during the time when the country and people are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a time when people all over the country, and the world, are experiencing fear and uncertainty about their well-being, and the safety of their loved ones. The central government’s priority must be to single mindedly focus in effectively dealing with this pandemic while catering to the needs of the people and their requirements. “Your government’s” priority must be to deal with the problems that have emerged affecting the lives and livelihoods of crores of people, as reflected in the plight of the migrant workers, many of whom have lost their lives due to hunger, exhaustion and walking many kms to reach their homes. The central government has done very little to provide relief and rations to such people.

Many countries in the world are seeking to release prisoners so as to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in prisons. In India too, the Supreme Court advised the release of prisoners on bail or parole to reduce crowding in prisons. The situation at the Arthur Road prison in Mumbai is a testimony to such dangers. Even physically disabled people with known serious medical conditions like Dr. G N. Saibaba and others are not being allowed to seek competent medical treatment.

At such a time, it is shocking to see the Government of India jailing academics, activists, women, and students, putting their health and safety at grave risk.

•    In Delhi, the police directly under the Home Ministry is arresting prominent activists including women involved in the totally peaceful anti-CAA movement under the draconian UAPA on totally manufactured  charges seeking to link them with the communal violence in Delhi. In addition, scores of students are being called for interrogation by the Special Branch and intimidated. The victims in the violence perpetrated in JNU are being targeted while there has not been a single arrest of those outsiders who unleashed this violence against students and teachers. It is also shocking to note that certain communities are being targeted while the perpetrators of communally charged violence, established in various video recordings, including prominent leaders of the ruling party are moving around scot free.

•    In the communal violence in north east Delhi, in spite of prima facie evidence of police connivance and the involvement of mobs attacking minority areas identified in the videos, the Delhi police is making one sided arrests of young Muslim men and interrogating only members of the minority community, creating a sense of insecurity among them.

•    The arrests of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case even while continuing the detention of activists Sudha Bharadwaj and others without any evidence is another shocking example of how civil liberties are being trampled.

•    In Kashmir the continuing detention of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and many others is condemnable. So also is condemnable that prisoners from Kashmir are locked up in various jails across the country.

•    The vindictive approach of the Government in continuing the detention of Shri Laloo Prasad Yadav in spite of his ill health and the stringent conditions of his imprisonment is condemnable.

We request you to urge the Government to reverse this course by releasing opposition leaders and human rights activists and ceasing the pursuit of a politics of vendetta against protesters and political dissenters at a time when the country and people have to be united in dealing with this Covid pandemic.

Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI(M)
D Raja, General Secretary, CPI
Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPI(ML)
Debabrata Biswas, General Secretary, AIFB
Manoj Bhattacharya, General Secretary, RSP
Sharad Yadav, General Secretary, LJD
Manoj Jha, MP, RJD
Thol. Thirumavalavan, MP & President, VCK

First published in NewsClick.