NHRC notice to the Government of Maharashtra over reported arrest of five activists in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence (29.08.2018)

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New Delhi, 29th August, 2018

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports about the arrest of five activists by the police from different cities yesterday on the 28th August, 2018 in connection with the investigations in the Bhima Koregaon violence, which occurred in Pune, Maharashtra in the beginning of this year. Reportedly, those arrested include lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, civil liberties activists, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao.

On the basis of the media reports, the Commission has observed that it appears, the standard operating procedure in connection with these arrests has not been properly followed by the police authorities, which may amount to violation of their human rights. Accordingly, it has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, Maharashtra calling for a factual report in the matter within four weeks.

According to the media reports, carried today on the 29th August, 2018, the Delhi High Court has stayed the transit remand for civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha, observing that police have not been able to satisfactorily explain the offence, he had been arrested for. The decision on a transit remand for lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj is also pending before the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Faridabad. The activist has told the court that she had nothing to do with the incident for which she has been arrested. According to her, the FIR did not even name her and she is being harassed and arrested only because of her ideology.

In the case of activist Gautam Navlakha, reportedly, the court has questioned how Pune police managed to get a transit remand from a Delhi court without any local witness. The court has also directed translation of the police documents into English which are in vernacular language.

The Commission has also observed that earlier it had received a complaint from an NGO from Geneva regarding illegal arrest of five human rights defenders namely Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut by Maharashtra police in the month of June, 2018. In that matter also, the Commission had issued a notice on the 29th June, 2018 to the DGP, Maharashtra calling for a report in the matter within four weeks, which is yet to be received.

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