04/21/2020

Urgent Action: Crackdown on Dissent Continues During COVID-19 (India: UA 55.20)


Activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde were arrested by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) on 14 April 2020 and charged under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code along with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for their involvement in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon riots. These arrests appear to be politically motivated and relate to the massive crackdown on human rights defenders in 2018, when nine other prominent activists were arrested in the same case.

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Mr Amit Shah
Union Home Minister of India
Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy
Email: [email protected]

Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 202 939 7000 I Fax: 202 265 4351
Twitter: @IndianEmbassyUS @SandhuTaranjitS
Facebook: @IndiaInUSA
Instagram: @indianembassyus
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Union Home Minister,

I write to express my deep concern over the recent arrest of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency on 14 April 2020. These brave activists have been targeted for their work with some of India’s most vulnerable people, like Adivasis and Dalits. I am concerned that these arrests are politically motivated and that the crackdown has targeted many organizations and individuals seeking accountability and engaging in human rights advocacy.

It is worrying to see that the series of brutal crackdowns on human rights defenders and activists in the country continue, specifically relating to the arrests of nine other prominent activists – Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao for their alleged involvement in the violence that erupted between Dalits and Hindu nationalists in January 2018 in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra.

Both Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, who are more than 65 years old, have underlying heart ailments. Currently held in NIA custody, they will be sent to India’s overcrowded prisons during this Covid-19 pandemic, despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urging all states to release “every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” on 3 April 2020.

I urge you to ensure that Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj and other 8 activists are immediately and unconditionally released and that all charges against them are dropped; all activists, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and members of the political opposition are able to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association; and I urge you to repeal laws – including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – which criminalize or impose arbitrary or sweeping restrictions on the human right to freedom of expression and bring them in line with international human rights standards.

Yours sincerely,

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