Mumbai: More than 40 civil rights organisations, including those of women, Dalit and adivasi, came together in Mumbai on Saturday, to condemn the arrest of human rights activists in the Bhima-Koregaon riots case. Teesta Setalvad, an activist of Citizens for Justice and Peace, Nilima Dutta, trustee, Lawyers Collective, Dolphy D’souza, from Police Reforms Policy and Susan Abraham, advocate and wife of activist Vernon Gonsalves, addressed a joint press conference, at which they raised serious questions on the working of lower courts.
They said the court rejected bail for activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bhardwaj despite there being no strong evidence against them. “The manner in which the state has been hell-bent on depriving the activists of their liberty is appalling and an assault on democracy, ” said the speakers. The Pune sessions court had rejected the bail applications of all three activists on the evening of October 26, the last day of their house arrest. As a result, the trio had no time to seek legal recourse.
The speakers also questioned the motive of the state. Setalvad said, “The state has played foul in the entire investigations. No action has been taken against right wing leaders – Manohar Bhide and Milind Ekbote – against whom a FIR was filed for inciting violence. And on the other hand, there is a clear attempt to divert attention from the role of Hindutva groups in attacking the silent visitors to Bhima-Koregaon.”
The core demand of the speakers was the immediate release of the activists, who they alleged, have been falsely arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon riots and to arrest the real culprits, the two right wing Hindutva leaders.