October 5, 2018
Human rights experts from the United Nations on Friday expressed concern about the arrests of activists in the Bhima Koregaon case, and urged India to ensure that their cases are “promptly heard in line with international law”.
Ten activists have been arrested since June under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Five of them are in prison, four under house arrest, and one has been released since.
The human rights experts said the vague definition of “unlawful activities” and “membership of terrorist organisations” in the law “confers discretionary powers upon state agencies, which weakens judicial oversight and diminishes civil liberties in the process”.
The Pune Police had arrested activists Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale on June 6 as part of their investigation into violence during an event in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1. On August 28, they arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao.
“We are concerned that terrorism charges brought in connection with the commemoration of Bhima-Koregaon are being used to silence human rights defenders who promote and protect the rights of India’s Dalit, indigenous, and tribal communities,” a statement by the UN experts said.