Drop sedition charges, release human rights defenders: EU MPs' letter to Govt of India, NHRC


European Parliament’s 20 members, expressing concern over the crackdown on human rights defenders in India, have asked the Government of India and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to provide an open space to civil society. In a letter, they have said, “India is the largest democracy in the world, and an important strategic partner of the European Union, whereas the relationship between the two is based on shared values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
Addressed to the ministers of law and justice (Ravi Shankar Prasad), tribal affairs (Jual Oram) and social justice and empowerment (Thaawarchand Gehlot), and NHRC’s liaison officer for human rights defenders, the letter says, there are “worrying signs of shrinking civil society space in India”, underlining the need to “take urgent steps to change course, release all detained human rights defenders in the country, drop all charges against them, and allow them to carry out their work free from risk or impediment”.
Citing a series of crackdowns on human rights defenders, beginning with the arrest of three Dalit rights activists, a professor and a social activist in June last year for the Bhima Koregaon violence in January 2018, and use of the anti-sedition Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the letter expresses shock over the Jharkhand police went so far as to file sedition cases against 20 tribal rights activities for criticising the state government.
The letter mentions, among others, the names of those harassed or arrested, including Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha , Arun Ferreira, Degree Prasad Chouhan, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Valarmathi Madhaiyan and Piyush Manush, Stan Swamy, letter asks the Government of India to “release all those who have been detained, drop all charges against them, and stop all judicial harassment of human rights defenders.”

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