Act now to demand the release of the BK16!

Since 2018, Indian authorities have arrested 16 activists under a draconian anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case. 11 of them continue to languish in prison without trial. The repression of activists must end. 

The BK16 activists include poets, journalists, lawyers, professors, artists, and a Jesuit priest, who have been charged under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which has been abused to detain people for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.   

These HRDs have long worked to defend the rights of some of India’s poorest and most marginalized communities, including Dalits and Adivasis – India’s indigenous peoples. They are India’s heroes.

One of the 16 activists, Fr. Stan Swamy died in detention due to denial of timely media treatment. While three others, Anand Teltumbde, Sudha Bhardwaj and Varavara Rao have been granted bail and activist Gautam Navlakha has been shifted to house arrest, 11 activists continue to languish in jail without a trial. 

Take action today and demand their immediate release. 

Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow the safety valve, pressure cooker will burst.

Supreme Court of India, 2018

The Bhima Koregaon 16:

Varavara Rao is renowned poet who has been arrested several times before but was always acquitted. He founded the Revolutionary Writers’ Association. He was arrested on 28 August 2018 for allegedly “waging a war against the Government of India” amongst other charges under the terror related act UAPA and the Indian Penal Code. He was granted bail after a massive deterioration of his medical condition. 
The trial has not even begun yet. 
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Vernon Gonsalves wrote extensively on Dalit, Adivasi and prisoners’ rights. In 2007, he was arrested under Arms Act and UAPA. In 2013, he was convicted but released since he had already undergone the period of his sentence as an undertrial. In 2018, he was arrested again. This time for “waging war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial. 
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Sudha Bharadwaj worked in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh for about three decades representing mine workers, mostly from Dalit and tribal communities, until her arrest on 28 August 2018 for allegedly “waging a war against the Government of India”. She was granted bail in 2021 but on the condition that she stays in Mumbai until the trial is over.
The trial has not even begun yet.  
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Rona Wilson campaigned relentlessly for those wrongly arrested under repressive laws. In 2018, while he was preparing for his Ph.D., he was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial. 
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Gautam Navlakha wrote extensively about human rights violations in Kashmir and India’s repressive laws. In 2020, amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, he was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains under house arrest. 
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Member of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch, Sagar Gorkhe studied sociology and raised awareness about casteism. In 2020, amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, he was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial.   
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Prior to her arrest on 6 June 2018 for allegedly “waging a war against the Government of India”, amongst other charges, Shoma Sen headed the English Department of Nagpur University in Maharashtra. Shoma is a member of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights and has been a long-time Dalit and women’s rights activist advocating for the rights of marginalised communities.
She remains in jail without trial. 
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Leading member of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch, Ramesh Gaichor raised awareness about people’s rights. In 2020, amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, he was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial. 
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For two decades, Surendra Gadling successfully represented human rights defenders, Dalits and Adivasis in cases of state atrocities. In 2018, he was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial. 
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As a Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow, Mahesh Raut strengthened self-governance and campaigned against exploitative mining projects. In 2018, he was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial.  
Copyright Amnesty International
Member of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch, Jyoti Jagtap studied psychology and aspired to open her own clinic. In 2020, amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, she was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. She remains in jail without trial.   
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Hany Babu was a Linguistics Professor at Delhi University and campaigned for the release of Prof. GN Saibaba. In 2020, amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, he was arrested under India’s anti-terror law. He remains in jail without trial.  
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84-year-old Jesuit priest and human rights defender, Father Stan Swamy dedicated his life to supporting marginalized communities to seek redress against violence and discrimination. He founded the Vistapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, an all-India platform to secure and protect the rights of Dalit and Adivasi peoples. He was arrested in the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown.
On 5 July 2021, he died in custody.  
Copyright Amnesty International
Sudhir Dhawale published a Marathi magazine called Vidrohi which focused on issues relating to labour, land, education, health and caste. In 2011, he was arrested for “waging war against the Government” and acquitted. In 2018, he was arrested again on the same charge.
He remains in jail without trial.
Copyright Amnesty International
Anand Teltumbde was an outspoken critic of caste system and persecution of human rights defenders in India. In 2020, he was arrested for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial.
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For 7 years, Arun Ferreira was detained for working with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). Later, he was acquitted. In 2018, he was arrested again for “waging a war against the Government of India”. He remains in jail without trial.
Copyright Amnesty International
Copyright Amnesty International

INDIAN AUTHORITIES MUST RELEASE ALL IMPRISONED ACTIVISTS IN THE BK16 CASE!

Act now to urge the Union Home Minister of India, Amit Shah to:  

  • Drop all charges against the 16 activists and immediately release the 12 who remain in detention   
  • Pending their release, ensure that they are granted prompt, regular, and unrestricted access to medical care and other basic necessities   
  • Repeal or substantially amend the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.  

Background:

Police allege that the 16 activists “incited” a group of Dalit people at a large public rally in Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra on 31 December 2017. Dalit people belong to oppressed castes and have historically faced discrimination. Violent clashes erupted the next day, leading to one death and several injured. The police have also accused the activists to be active members of the banned terrorist organization Communist Party of India. 
 
The activists face charges under the UAPA and various provisions of the Indian Penal Code. The UAPA has often been abused to arbitrarily detain people peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Amnesty International has previously conducted analysis of the UAPA and concluded that parts of it do not meet international human rights standards. 
 

The crackdown on human rights defenders in India continues unabated. Over 4 years since the first wave of arrests in #BK16 case, 11 of the 16 activists remain behind bars. Demand their release. #FreeBK16  https://www.amnesty.org/en/bhima-koregaon-16/
Ask the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release everyone imprisoned in the #BK16 case. It is unacceptable that activists are imprisoned in India simply for speaking up for the rights of everyone. #FreeBK16 https://www.amnesty.org/en/bhima-koregaon-16/
We must not forget that 11 of the BK16 activists remain imprisoned without trial, simply for speaking for the rights of the most marginalized. Sign petition to tell the government of India that dissent is not a crime. #FreeBK16 https://www.amnesty.org/en/bhima-koregaon-16/