Boston: More than 50 people assembled at Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to protest against the arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and activists across India. The event was organized by the Coalition for a Democratic India, on August 31.
The people gathered from the Boston metropolitan area demanded the immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Fereira, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonzalves and Gautam Navalakha who were arrested under false allegations of having “Maoist Links,” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The draconian law allows the police to keep the defendant in custody for prolonged periods of time without bail that the government misuses this to suppress dissent.
Civil society organizations and citizens, including persons of Indian, South Asian and American origin, expressed growing concerns over draconian measures taken by the BJP Government that not only undermine democracy and Constitutional rights but also hurt the Indian economy and further disenfranchise vulnerable tribals, Dalits, and Muslims.
“Criminalizing dissent and inventing a bogeyman has been an age-old tactic of the ruling elite to divert attention from the issues of joblessness, agrarian crisis and growing violence against women, Adivasis and Dalits,” said Neel Minj holding a sign which said – Demonetization was a crime against the people of India.
“More than an undeclared state of Emergency, we are concerned that all of India has been turned into an open prison in which people of conscience live,” said Swati Birla of Amherst, Massachusetts.
One participant read out the poem by Gorakh Pandey which roughly translates to –
What the ruling elite with all their forces and guns, fear the most Is that poor unarmed people will stop fearing the elite.
“The rise of fascism is not limited to the United States. India and the United Kingdom, among other countries, have to find solutions to real problems that concern the people, and not resort to state coercion and violence” said Nino Brown.
“Oppression must come to an end, and for this to happen, people all over India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Guwahati, need to come together in solidarity.” Said Rajesh Kasturirangan from Belmont, Massachusetts.
“Democracy is not working properly, and all political parties in India are complicit in undermining the Constitution while simultaneously spreading hate and fear among people,” said Jaspal Singh of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The group closed the evening by raising slogans to support people’s power and end oppression on Dalits, Adivasis, Women, Transgenders and Farmers in India.