Bhima Koregaon accused write to human rights panel

Letter condemns ‘environment of fear promoted by State’

Published - December 11, 2019 01:22 am IST - Mumbai

On International Human Rights Day on Tuesday, all nine accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence wrote to the chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission, “condemning the environment of fear and criminalisation promoted by the State wherein the human rights of Indian citizens and especially those of human rights defenders who are critical of State policies are under threat.”

Human rights advocates Surendra Gadling, Sudha Bharadwaj; writer Sudhir Dhawale; Mahesh Raut, who works for tribals; professor Shoma Sen; activists Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves; and poet Varavara Rao who are in Yerwada jail wrote, “It is our strong contention that the State has arrested and continues to imprison us due to our long standing dissenting views as human rights defenders.” With the over 18-month incarceration, it said, “the Indian State seeks to create an environment of fear where all such voices critical of the government are warned that their human rights, especially those dealing with freedom of expression, ideology and association can be easily crushed under the garb of national security.”

The three-page letter further said, “Despite our expectations, our bail applications were recently rejected. The stringent provisions in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Sedition Act have made it easier for the prosecution to brush aside important questions on the authenticity, credibility and admissibility of digital evidence thus prolonging the incarceration. These aspects of any digital technology allow political rivals/adversaries to use fake content as an effective tool to attack, defame, criminalise and silence each other. ‘Deep fakes’ is a new digital force technology that has posed a serious challenge to the political environment in the U.S. and Europe.”

The Pune police, the letter said, “claim that certain files (fake letters) were found on the computers of two of us (accused).” It also said, “Since they deliberately chose to ignore proper procedures to digitally secure the electronic storage devices seized from our residences, they would easily plant such false and fabricated letters in our hard disks and attribute them to us.”

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