Free arrested activists or face ‘jail bharo’, says U.P. Dalit rights group

10 persons, including retired IPS officer, French national, booked; Ambedkar Jan Morcha vows not to get intimidated by arrests

October 26, 2023 01:55 am | Updated 01:55 am IST - Lucknow

Ambedkar Jan Morcha, an organisation based in Gorakhpur fighting for the rights of Dalits and other marginalised groups, has threatened to launch a ‘jail bharo’ agitation if the Uttar Pradesh government fails to release its members and activists who were arrested following a stir this month.

Ten persons, including the organisation’s convener, a retired IPS officer, and a French national, were sent to Gorakhpur jail for participating in the ‘Dera dalo, ghera dalo’ protest allegedly held in violation of prohibitory orders on October 10.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly women, had attended the stir demanding one acre for landless families in the State from Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes, and other marginalised groups.

The protest was held outside the Divisional Commissioner’s office in Gorakhpur and a staff member, Rajesh Kumar Verma, had registered a police complaint accusing the protesters of vandalising official property.

‘Repressive tactics’

The group has vowed not to get intimidated by the government’s “repressive tactics”. “The arrests symbolise repressive tactics by the administration to silence pro-poor voices and the people’s movement. If the activists are not released, we will launch a ‘jail bharo’. Fighting for people’s rights has become a crime, with false cases being lodged,” said Nirdesh Singh, who actively participates in the organisation’s initiatives and has been named in the FIR.

The arrested persons include retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri, Ambedkar Jan Morcha convener Shrawan Kumar Nirala, activist Rishi Kapoor Anand, lawyer Jai Bhim Prakash, independent journalist Neelam Baudh, journalist and writer Siddharth Ramu, and three YouTubers.

The activists and 10-15 unidentified people have been booked on various charges, including assault and unlawful assembly.

A French citizen, Heinold Valentine Jean Roger, who was at the protest site taking videos, was also arrested on charges of allegedly violating provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

“All charges are fake. We have approached the courts. Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code was added to the FIR a day after it was registered. Videos of the protest, held in a peaceful manner, are in the public domain,” said Adarsh Nirala, brother of the Ambedkar Jan Morcha convener.

The police said investigation is in progress and declined to share further details. “It was like a conspiracy. People from far-off areas such as Rudrapur in Deoria were called and asked to fill forms on the promise of being allocated land,” said Randhir Mishra, the Station House Officer at the Gorakhpur Cantonment police station.

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