Stop the Incarceration and Targeting of Dissenters and Activists in India

Members of the PI Council ring the alarm on arbitrary arrests and the breakdown of justice in India.
The conduct of the Indian Government is unacceptable in the international framework for the protection of human rights and runs counter to the Indian Constitutional framework.

The members of Progressive International call upon the Indian government to immediately stop persecuting non-violent protestors wrongly accused and booked by the police. The protests against a discriminatory law like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), are natural reactions in a country like India where discrimination on the basis of religion has never been condoned. The attempt to silence those who seek to object to such discriminatory legislation by using draconian, anti-terror, and national security laws is unacceptable. The constitutionally protected right to protest is fundamental to any legitimate democracy.

Two major criminal investigations in India are a serious cause for concern because they appear to be driven by a partisan, political agenda. The use of the investigating agencies to target dissenting political ideologies in India has been a disturbing trend. The two separate cases of the Delhi riots 2020, and the Bhima-Koregaon incident 2018, have cast a wide net and included public figures known for their decades of social, political and democratic work being criminalised and accused under anti-terror and national security laws. Similarly, following the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), many political opponents and activists have been incarcerated since August of last year (2019). The people of J&K have been living in a perpetual state of emergency, denied access even to basic means of communication like the internet.

Amongst the hundreds already arrested across India, a large majority are from the Muslim community. Also targeted are human rights and civil rights activists who may oppose policies of the government including issues of discrimination and persecution of minorities by the ruling dispensation. These include Member of the Council of Progressive International, Harsh Mander, Writer, Professor Apoorvanand of the University of Delhi, Rahul Roy, an eminent filmmaker and activist, Yogendra Yadav, well-known intellectual and political activist, and Umar Khalid, scholar and activist from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Most recently, Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary and Politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and internationally known Economist, Professor Jayati Ghosh have also been named in the Delhi riots investigation as part of a grand conspiracy.

Earlier, in the Bhima-Koregaon case, many activists who have dedicated their lives to causes of social justice and were not even remotely involved in any kind of violence, are being unjustly prosecuted, instead of prosecuting the perpetrators of violence. These include a 79-year-old poet who has contracted Covid-19, Varavara Rao, activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha, advocate for dalit rights and a management professor from one of India’s premier educational institutes, Anand Teltumbde. They are among the many other activists who have been in custody under false and untenable charges.

By actively seeking to quash peaceful expressions of dissent and making arbitrary arrests, the ruling party, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is causing irreparable damage to an already crumbling democratic system. The arrests send a chilling message to citizens that disagreement with, or criticism of government policies will not be tolerated.

The conduct of the Indian Government is unacceptable in the international framework for the protection of human rights and runs counter to the Indian Constitutional framework. The Progressive International calls upon the Indian Government to:

  1. Immediately release and drop the cases against political and social activists
  2. Repeal and halt the use of draconian anti-terror and national security laws against democratic dissenters and activists
  3. Repeal the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019


Aruna Roy
Social activist and Founder-Member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)

Arundhati Roy
Writer and activist

Jean Drèze
Development economist and social and peace activist

Sarika Sinha
Women's rights and social activist

Vijay Prashad
Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

Ahdaf Soueif
Author and political and cultural commentator

Tasneem Essop
Climate and social justice activist

Wang Hui
Author and founding Director of the Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences, Beijing

Carola Rackete
Polar researcher and activist

Trusha Reddy
Head of the Energy & Climate Justice Program at the WoMin African Alliance

Cornel West
Philosopher, writer, activist and public intellectual

John Cusack
Director, producer, actor and activist

Noam Chomsky
Linguist, public Intellectual and activist

Pierre Sané
Founder & President of Imagine Africa Institute

Kavita Naidu
Climate Justice Programme Officer at Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta
Minister of Women, Gender, and Diversity in Argentina

Yanis Varoufakis
Member of the Hellenic Parliament and the Secretary-General of MeRA25

Ertuğrul Kürkçü
Honorary President of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)

John McDonnell
Member of UK Parliament for Hayes and Harlington

Harry Halpin
CEO of Nym Technologies SA

Photo: Wonderlane, Flickr

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