Immediately Stop the Unlawful Arrest of Trade Unionists and Human Rights Defenders

The New Trade Union Initiative condemns the arbitrary raiding of residences of human rights activists and their arrest in a parallel operation across the country by the Maharashtra police. The Pune police have raided the residences of human rights defenders and trade union activists in Ranchi, Delhi, Goa, Mumbai and Hyderabad and arrested Comrade Sudha Bharadwaj from her Delhi residence and confiscated her phone, computer and other electronic devices, books, periodicals. The raids and arrests are all connected to Case number 4/18 registered by Vishrambaug police station in Pune linking them to the Bhima Koregaon incident.

Comrade Sudha Bharadwaj, advocate and leader of the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh and Jan Aadharit Engineering Mazdoor Union, have been arrested from her Delhi residence this morning for her alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon incident under sections 153(a), 505 (1)(b), 117, 120 (b), 34 of the IPC and sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18(b), 19, 20, 38, 39, 40 of the UAPA. Sudha has been under attack recently as part of an ongoing campaign both in government and through regressive forces in civil society to create an atmosphere of fear amongst those speaking up and standing against the attack on democracy, justice and equality.

This is the second round of arrests that the government has conducted in connection to the Bhima Koregaon attacks of human rights defenders. In the first round the Pune police had arrested 5 activists. None of these activists have been given bail. While on the other hand, leaders of two right-wing organisations identified as the prime provocateurs of the original attack on the dalits, Manohar aka Shambhaji Bhide or ‘Bhide Gurji’ of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and Milind Ekbote of the Hindu Ekta (Aaghadi) Manch, though were booked by the Pune Police for inciting violence and under provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, have been released on bail.

The definitive politicisation of Dalits against the Hindutva agenda of the BJP and its allies, particularly after the Una violence in Gujarat, has been a cause of serious concern for the BJP government at the centre which is preparing for election. This concerted attack against all democratic and progressive forces shows that the BJP government at the centre is nervous and is lashing out at all voices of dissent.

The NTUI joins with all progressive forces in fighting this attack as it stands in solidarity with Comrade Sudha Bharadwaj and the members of the Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh and Jan Aadharit Engineering Mazdoor Union who continue to face the gravest attack on their rights as workers and citizens.

This is our common fight and a fight we must win.

N Vasudevan

President