On Tuesday, August 28, the Pune Police orchestrated house raids and arrests of several civil rights activists and intellectuals in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Rachi, Goa and Faridabad. Among the arrested are Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira. Among those whose homes were raided are Susan Abraham, Kranti Teluka, Father Stan Swamy and Anand Teltumbde. The arrested are being accused of holding “Maoist sympathies” and charged specifically for inciting Dalits last December, when clashes had broke out between Dalits and right-wing groups during the gathering of Maharashtrian Dalits near Pune to mark the 200th anniversary of Koregaon Victory, celebrated as the first battle against caste oppression.

As of now, the Supreme Court of India has intervened to order the arrested be kept at their homes until September 6 following a writ petition submitted by prominent Indian intellectuals against this arbitrary use of arrest. But the case is far from over.

It is outrageous that the Indian government, instead of defending human rights and securing the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, is cracking down on the very people who have fought for justice in India. The baseless charges and harassments laid on these lawyers, activists and writers who have always stood up for the rights of Dalit and other marginalized groups is effectively an attempt to create a culture of state terror. This is a violation of democratic principles, abuse of police power, as well as a dismissal of Dalit dissent.

These tactics of silencing citizen bodies by targeting innocent public intellectuals and activists who raise critical issues are on the rise in the South Asian nations and beyond. On behalf of the organizations listed below, we staunchly denounce these tactics and we call upon the Indian government to live up to the spirit of the constitution and cease this assault on civil liberties.

We will be watching how the Indian government and the Indian judiciary respond to this crisis in the coming days. As part of Nepali civil society, we recognize that the erosion of democratic values in India has direct repercussions on the protection of our freedoms here in Nepal. These arrests and raids are being widely condemned and we add our voices in solidarity to join everyone who fights for justice and works to safeguard Dalit rights.

The undersigned,

Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization
Feminist Dalit Organization
Samata Foundation
Jagaran Media Center
Center for Dalit Women Nepal
Nepal Picture Library
Chaukath Nepal
LOOM Nepal
QC Bookshop
Satori Center for the Arts