Two years before this day, 11 human rights activists related to Bhima Koregaon incident were arrested. The Amnesty International India said on Twitter, “It is nothing but cruel for the NIA to insist that the 11 activists must continue to remain in jail as the #COVID19 pandemic rages across Indian prisons.”
Here are five components of the story:
- In 2018 Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, and Mahesh Raut were arrested by the Pune police for their alleged involvement in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence. Six other activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, and Gautam were also arrested in connection with the incident.
- Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India underlined, “The suffering faced by the activists since the last two years indicate how the process is the punishment: shifted from one jail to another, investigations changing hands from the Pune police to the National Investigative Agency (NIA) and a smear campaign by the state and the media accusing them of being ‘anti-nationals’ working against the country.”
- Among the 11 activists, most of them suffer from co-morbidities, five are older persons. These two factors are considered to increase the vulnerability against Covid-19. Last month, 80-year-old activist and poet, Varavara Rao who suffers from coronary artery disease, oedema and hypertension fell unconscious in the jail.
- In the light of Covid, restrictions have been imposed on visits by families or lawyers. Preventing legal visits directly impacts detainees’ right to a fair trial.
- Citing the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) counsel for countries around the world in view of the pandemic to release “every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views,” Amnesty India said, “it is nothing but cruel for the NIA to insist that these activists must continue to remain in jail as the pandemic rages across Indian prisons.”