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Centre undermining federalism, attacking civil liberties: Jharkhand chief minister

By Our Representative
Opposition leaders, including Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Kechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and NCP MLA Supriya Sulehave have joined top human rights activists, lawyers and academics to denounce the arrest of Stan Swamy and other activists in the Bhima Koregaon case, even as calling for the repeal of the “draconian” Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Sending a video message to the virtual media conference, organized by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Jharkhand chief minister said, “Today, it is Stan Swamy, tomorrow it will be your turn, then it will be our turn. Tomorrow it will be your state, today it is our state.”  Criticising the Government of India for attacking “values of federalism”, he said, this is  reflected in the “auction of coal blocks without any consultation with the state government.” 
Asking  political parties to come together to oppose “the growing attacks by the Central government on civil liberties, federalism and the democracy itself”, he insisted, “When the country is subjected to anarchy, when Hitlerism is practiced at some places in the country, the opposition should not hesitate to stand together."  
Stan Swamy, a Jesuit, was arrested on October 8 to become the 16th activist to be sent to jail in the Bhima-Koregaon case. A month earlier, on September 7-8, cultural activists Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jagtap, members of the Kabir Kala Manch, were arrested in the same case.
In his opening remarks, V Suresh, general secretary, PUCL, observed that while the vast majority of those accused under UAPA are “finally acquitted in the case, the stringent requirements for bail make it very difficult for those charged under this Act to get bail, and consequently, they end up being imprisoned for years under fabricated charges.”
Mihir Desai, human rights advocate at the Bombay High Court, said that “despite ample documentary evidence of the involvement of Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote in the violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018, the Pune police chose to investigate only accusations against Elgar Parishad, a gathering organized by 250 Dalit and Bahujan groups.”
“The chargesheets relied entirely on unsigned, unverified, uncorroborated type-written letters and the testimonies of a few witnesses, whose names had not yet been revealed to the accused. The fact that the accused, especially the elderly ones, are being denied Covid bail points to the intention to persecute”, he added.
DMK MP Kanimozhi said, there were “growing attacks on the right to dissent”, adding, “The central government even used the pandemic as an opportunity to inflict anti-people laws on people. Political parties have to make a choice at this time – are they going to be silenced and subdued, or are they going to fight for people’s rights, states’ rights and democracy?”
Chargesheets in Bhima-Koregaon case rely entirely on unsigned, unverified and uncorroborated type-written letters
Sitaram Yechury of CPI-M, said similar to Bhima-Koregaon case, in the Delhi riots case, too, the perpetrators are going scotfree while the victims are being further victimised. D Raja of CPI, asked all organisations and political parties “to stand up for GN Saibaba, who is being denied bail despite being 90% disabled.”
Shashi Tharoor of the Congress called charges against Stan Swamy “preposterous”, and his arrest “inexplicable,” while NCP’s Supriya Sule said that the Bhima-Koregaon case happened in her area in Maharashtra, and she could vouch for the fact there is absolutely no connection between the activists (accused) and the violence, adding, :Whenever the state government wants to carry out a fair investigation, the central government intervenes and does not allow it”.
Rupali Jadhav of the Kabir Kala Manch said that her colleagues, arrested in the case in September, were being “coerced by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) to give false evidence in a statement before a magistrate under the threat of arrest”, adding, “They were being asked to implicate others who had already been arrested.”
Others who addressed media conference included well-known development economist Jean Dreze, Theodore Mascarenhas, the Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese, Ranchi, and Marianus Kujur, the director, Xavier Institute of Social Service, Ranchi.

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