Actions of a retributive regime: Three years after Bhima Koregaon arrests, over 100 academics pen open letter

A few of the letter's signatories include musician TM Krishna, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and activist Thirumurugan Gandhi
The first set of arrests was made in August 2018
The first set of arrests was made in August 2018

It has been over three years since a group of academics and others have been serving their term without trial, in connection with the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence. Now, a group of 100 people, including prominent academics, writers and artists have written an open letter, seeking their release immediately. The signatories include professors from JNU, DU, Ashoka University, New York University, George Mason University and many others. 

Of the people who were arrested, Father Stan Swamy had passed away a few weeks ago. "We, the undersigned, condemn the continued incarceration of the academics, cultural activists, human rights activists, lawyers, poets and trade unionists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case and unitedly demand their immediate release. After three years of media trial, harassment, raids and arrests of 16 persons, one of the arrested, Father Stan Swamy died on July 5, following wanton medical neglect in custody amounting to institutional murder," says the letter.

The letter also speaks about the Pegasus project and says that 8 of the 16 who were arrested had been under surveillance for years. "The revelations have unambiguously exposed the extent of illegal military-grade surveillance on the arrested, their families, colleagues and friends. Besides violating their privacy, the extraordinary measures taken to silence voices of dissent in the name of national security stands exposed," reads the letter. A few of its signatories include musician TM Krishna, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and activist Thirumurugan Gandhi.

"Democracy upholds the fundamental right to life and liberty alongside the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association and movement in our country. The Supreme Court of India deemed the right to privacy as integral to the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed in Article 21 (KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India 2017). The use of digital surveillance as a weapon by the government against the people of the country is a violation of this fundamental right," the letter says. 

Those who remain in custody include professors Anand Teltumbde, Hany Babu and Shoma Sen, cultural activists Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe, writer and anti-caste activist Sudhir Dhawale, anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut, lawyers Arun Ferreira, Surendra Gadling and Sudha Bharadwaj, human rights activists Gautam Navlakha, Rona Wilson and Vernon Gonsalves and poet Varavara Rao. Recently, Hany Babu, owing to illness and COVID-19, was admitted to a hospital. On Wednesday, the Bombay High Court had ordered him to be shifted back to prison.

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