Repeated attempts to silence dissent, say activists

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New Delhi, Aug 30 (IANS) Human rights activist Aruna Roy, literary figure Arundhati Roy and lawyer Prashant Bhushan along with other activists on Thursday criticised the BJP-led government over repeated attempts to silence the voices of the dissent.

The activists came together at Press Club to express their dissatisfaction and fear following the arrest of five human rights activists on Tuesday. The arrested included Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, Sudha Bharadwaj in Haryana and Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonzalves in Maharashtra. They were linked to violence at Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra last year.

“All norms of the Constitution are being violated. Right to freedom of expression is at stake. The arrest of the five is an indication that any voice raised in support of Dalits or poor will be silenced in this country,” said activist Aruna Roy while addressing the media.

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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court directed that the five rights activists arrested by Maharashtra Police should be kept under house arrest until September 6, the next date of hearing.

In response to the petition filed by eminent historian Romila Thapar and four others, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had also said: “Dissent is a safety valve of democracy. If it is not allowed, the pressure cooker will burst.”

Author Arundhati Roy said the government is trying to “derail everything” with “some surprise attack”, urging people to hold the government accountable for its actions.

“It is no longer divide and rule, now it is divert and rule. We will not know from where and how and when and what kind of fireball is going to fall on us. They are trying to distract us,” she added.

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Talking about the arrest of the activists during the press meet, lawyer Prashant Bhushan mentioned that the prevailing situation is worse than the Emergency of 1975.

“Those who are accused of lynching are roaming freely whereas those standing up to support the oppressed voices are being arrested. False propaganda and reports are being set to weaken the human activists groups. Democracy is at stake now in this country,” Bhushan said.

In a joint statement, the activists stated that “targeting the democratic rights activists is an attack on the poor and marginalised sections of the society on whose behalf these activists have been raising their voices.”

The activists also slammed the term “urban naxals” used for the dissent saying that it is the government’s desperate attempt to portray those as Maoists who stand up for demanding justice for the Dalits or the marginalised sections.

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“Those who are taking steps to maintain the secular identity of the country are being terrorised. Peaceful protests of Dalits and poor are given the stamp of being a naxal or maoist movements and tried to be silent. But voices will continue to be raised and marches will be conducted across the country on September 5 and 15 as a mark of protest,” said activist Jignesh Mevani.

They demanded immediate release of those arrested and dropping of “all false and malicious charges that are politically motivated and unjustified”.

–IANS

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