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Amensty, Oxfam condemn "nationwide crackdown" on activists, advocates

Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Guatam Navlakha
By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the nationwide crackdown on activists, advocates and human rights defenders, will-known civil international rights organizations, Amnesty and Oxfam, in a joint statement said the step threatens core human rights values.
Asserting that the August 28 arrests were the second of such crackdown on those who have been critical of the state, Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India, said, "All these people have history of working to protect the rights of some of India’s most poor and marginalized people. Their arrests raise disturbing questions about whether they are being targeted for their activism.”
“These arrests cannot become the order of the day. The government should protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear,” added Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India. 
The statement follows Maharashtra police arresting Chhattisgarh-based human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, Maharashtra-based social activist Vernon Gonsalves, former secretary of People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) Gautam Navlakha, Maharashtra-based activist Arun Ferreira, and Telangana poet-journalist Varavara Rao. 
In June this year, five activists -- Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut -- were arrested on the suspicion of inciting caste-based violence on  January 1 in Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and several sections of the Indian Penal Code.

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