Bhima-Koregaon: Petitioners wanted to highlight misuse of UAPA

New Delhi: Petitioners who had filed for an independent investigation into the arrest of five activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence, said on Friday that they took the matter to the Supreme Court (SC) to highlight the misuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

“Our intention was to draw the attention of the judiciary to what we believe is a case of gross misuse of the state’s powers under draconian laws like the UAPA. Our history as a republic shows that, if left unchecked, such misuse causes grave injustices and endangers the civil liberties of all Indians,” a statement from the five petitioners read.

Slamming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government for the arrest of the activists, the petitioners stated that instances of misuse of power by government officials “to harass those who do not conform to the politics of their current masters” was also a form of terrorism.

“Those arrested on August 28 have been accused of being implicated in acts of terrorism. However, we believe that there are two kinds of terrorism both of which create fear and undermine the foundations of our democracy. The violent acts of those described as terrorists, who plant bombs, instigate people to be violent, engineer riots and deliberately spread fear through their acts; and the illegal or unjustified acts of state functionaries who, instead of pursuing the actual perpetrators of violence, misuse their powers to harass those who do not conform to the politics of their current masters,” the statement read.

The petitioners further stated that a genuine democracy respects “the constitutional and legal rights of every citizen, including the right to hold opinions different from – or even in opposition to – those of the government of the day,” adding that “the arrests of August 28 point to a continuing attempt to erode these rights.”

“Our petition was essentially an appeal to the Supreme Court to check this erosion of rights and protect the liberty and dignity of human rights activists,” the petitioners said in the statement.

While stating that the SC’s judgment protected the activist’s rights for a further four weeks and gave them the liberty to seek remedy from appropriate courts, the petitioners hailed Justice DY Chandrachud’s dissenting ruling, which doubted the police’s ability to conduct a free, fair and impartial investigation.

The Supreme Court had, earlier today, turned down the request of the petitioners to set up a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to probe into the Bhima Koregaon violence case and extended the house arrest of the five activists for four more weeks.

The five petitioners are historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala.

The five activists, namely poet Vara Vara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj, activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, and Gautam Navlakha, have been under house arrest since August 29 for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence.