Several civil society members and organisations in Mumbai on Sunday signed a statement calling for the release of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad from a jail in Uttar Pradesh. The Allahabad High Court in November 2017 granted bail to Azad, who was the key accused in the Saharanpur riots.
The signatories to the statement on Sunday said that a huge protest rally had been planned in Saharanpur against the continued incarceration of Azad.
On November 3, 2017, the day after the Allahabad High Court granted Azad bail, the Uttar Pradesh government slapped the National Security Act against the Dalit leader, the petitioners said. On January 27, the state extended the NSA against Azad by three months.
“The continued incarceration and harassment of Chandrashekar and his organisation is a shameful indictment of the manner in which judicial processes are being subverted,” the signatories said. They added that the charges the state had brought against the activist had not stood up to scrutiny in court.
“The violent crackdown on the legitimate work of the Bhim Army bodes ill for our democracy, which ought to encourage all those who fight economic and social oppression,” the statement read. “We demand that Chandrashekhar be released and false charges against him and other members of Bhim Army be dropped forthwith.”
The signatories include filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, civil rights activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, Communist Party of India leader Prakash Reddy, All India Secular Forum leader Ram Puniyani, Forum Against Oppression of Women member Sandhya Gokhale, and several others.