Over 350 academics and researchers have condemned the arrests of young activists who have supported the farmers protests against the Farm Laws, saying that students and activists, “especially from minority communities, have been facing persecution by the Central Government for a long time now, simply because they chose to speak up as conscientious citizens of this country.”
Twenty-two year old environmental activist Disha Ravi was arrested by the Delhi Police from Bengaluru last week while Nodeep Kaur, a Dalit labour rights activist was arrested on January 12 from the farmers’ protest at the Singhu Border.
The statement said that various law enforcement agencies and state governments have “ sought to intimidate, discredit, and prosecute students and young activists” and other groups like academics, journalists and comedians, among others, “merely” for “exercising the right to disagree” with the government and back movements they deemed important. It added that the Indian government and its leaders speak “for the environment and human rights in global forums while engaging in blatant violations at home.”
“Young people asking questions and protesting against injustice are upholding the most valued tenets of democracy. The increasingly repressive tactics employed by the Government to stifle these voices, create an environment of suspicion, instil fear, and curb any critical discussion and dialogue will undermine India’s democracy. We should strive to be a society in which people, especially the youth, are unafraid to ask questions and have the freedom to stand for democracy, secularism, and human freedoms,” it added.
The signatories also demanded that Ravi, Kaur and others be released and charges against them be dropped. “We also demand that warrants of a similar nature against others be withdrawn. We demand that law enforcement agencies stop using anti-terror laws to terrorise citizens and repeal the antiquated sedition laws, which have repeatedly been abused to repress peaceful protests,” they said.
The farmers’ protests against the Farm Laws which have been ongoing for close to three months at Delhi’s borders. Farmers from Punjab have been protesting against the laws since July last year.