Nearly 190 people affiliated with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, have issued a statement against the arrest of human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, who is also an alumnus of the institution.
They said the charges against her were a “travesty of justice”, concocted and fabricated and seem to be “an attempt to malign her reputation and discredit her causes”, they added.
Bharadwaj is among the five activists who are under house arrest in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case.
Lawyers Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira, activist Gautam Navlakha, writer and activist Varavara Rao along with Bharadwaj are accused of having links to the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).
On August 28, teams of the Pune Police raided the homes of several activists in Mumbai, Ranchi, Delhi, Faridabad and Goa as part of an investigation into a public meeting on December 31, a day before caste-related violence erupted in Bhima Koregaon.
The Supreme Court has stayed the transit remand of the arrested activists and ordered that they be placed under house arrest till September 12.
The full text of the statement is below:
We, a group of alumni of IIT Kanpur and others as students, researchers, faculty, staff and other community members affiliated with the same institute strongly condemn the arrest of IIT Kanpur alumna Sudha Bharadwaj (Integrated MSc., Mathematics, 1979-1984) and other activists namely, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, and the raiding of houses of Anand Teltumbde, K. Satyanarayana and Stan Swamy among many others.
These arrests seem to be a mere sequel in an ongoing attempt to intimidate and arrest activists, eminent writers, professors, journalists, and human rights defenders around the country.
Sudha Bhardwaj has a public record of dedicating herself to the most marginalized through her work spanning more than thirty years. She finished her integrated bachelors and masters program of Dept of Mathematics, IIT Kanpur, in 1984. Already socially conscious as a student, by 1986 she had moved to Chhattisgarh working with a workers’ organization and trade union in the mining-industrial belt of central Chhattisgarh.
It is here she found her calling as a trade unionist, and later, as a lawyer. We have compiled a short biography of her long journey; it is clear that she dedicated herself entirely to the most vulnerable and powerless, working through the rights and frameworks guaranteed in the Indian constitution.
The invoking of UAPA against Sudha Bharadwaj which – given its unduly harsh provisions – would ensure long term incarceration and denial of bail, is a travesty of justice given her long record of legal and social work. The charges against her appear to be totally concocted: the contradictory nature of the public statements issued by the prosecution suggests as much, as does even a cursory glance at the prime evidence in the form of a letter allegedly written by her.
It is also very curious that the dubious letters are entirely unaccompanied by any further evidence and were first leaked to selective media outlets, and the prosecution seems to be more prepared for a “media trial” than an actual onefor a summary of recent events in perspective.
With what appears to be a clear fabrication of facts, it looks like an attempt to malign her reputation and discredit her causes. The cases of other arrests seem to be similar.
In standing with the dispossessed and tirelessly bringing their issues within the ambit of the legal system, she has only strengthened the impulse of inclusive development that must be the bedrock of any modern democracy. It is no coincidence then, that a large number of public intellectuals, bureaucrats, academics, and members of the general public have come out in her support. To their voices we add ours, as members of an institution where this distinguished alumna spent her early years.
We, the undersigned, demand an immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Bhardwaj and all others who have been arrested. We also exhort an independent and impartial investigation by the National Human Rights Commission into the circumstances of their arrests.