Several prominent activists remain in custody even as the case is being investigated
The top human rights body of the United Nations has urged the Indian government to release the activists who are in prison for the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case, “at the very least on bail”. Several prominent activists like Varavara Rao and Fr. Stan Swamy were arrested and remain in custody even as the case is being investigated.
“We continue to be concerned about the situation of activists detained in India, including in the context of the Bhima Koregaon events. We encourage the authorities to release these individuals, at the very least, on bail while they await trial,” the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Friday during a weekly briefing, online publication The Wire has reported.
The Bhima Koregaon case dates back to January 1, 2018, which marked the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon. The event was organized to celebrate the victory of the British, which included a large number of Mahars, against Peshwa Baji Rao II’s army. A person was killed and several others were injured during the 2018 event.
Several human rights activists, including Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha, were arrested during the course of the investigation. The case is currently with the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The OHCHR, in its weekly briefing, also reiterated the concerns that were expressed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet last year, who had spoken about the arrests of activists in India and about the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). India’s recent human rights record has repeatedly come in focus in its exchanges with the OHCHR as well as with the members of the US Congress.
In response to Ms. Bachelet’s comments, the Ministry of External Affairs in October 2020, said, “The framing of laws is obviously a sovereign prerogative. Violations of law, however, cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights.”