The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) on January 9, 2021 demanded justice for Uttar Pradesh activists who allegedly suffered police harassment while trying to join the farmers’ struggle.
The organisation demanded that the Uttar Pradesh police release Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan founder and NAPM National Convener Richa Singh from arbitrary house arrest. They also demanded an explanation and compensation from the state police and government for curbing the rights of an individual who worked with women, workers, Dalits and farmers for three decades in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh. Singh was detained on January 7 and prevented from accessing medical care and exercising her freedom of movement.
On the day of the detainment, Singh participated in a tractor rally in support of the farmers’ protests. The NAPM said that she was followed by two plainclothes police personnel after the event and placed under house arrest in the evening.
“The Sitapur kotwal, the City Magistrate and the CO, visited her house but were unwilling to provide more than ambiguous information regarding the reasons for her detention,” they said.
Authorities prevented her from visiting her doctor in Lucknow claiming they suspected she intended to join Delhi’s farmers’ protests, although even this claim does not constitute grounds for house arrest. However, the details of this claim have not been shared with Singh contravening her civil rights to be informed of the basis for her house arrest. Accordingly, NAPM said there was no order for the arrest.
Additionally, NAPM said the state police must immediately withdraw the notice issued to activist Ramjanam under the Goondas Act. The Additional District Magistrate issued the notice to Ramjanam, who has been directed to appear before the Court on January 15.
An activist-delegation met the Divisional Commissioner in Varanasi to complain that others such as Krupa Verma, Fazl-ur-Rehman Ansari, Lakshmi Prasad suffered similar harassment by the police wherein they reportedly called, visited activists for ‘going to Delhi and supporting the farmers’ agitation!’
“Authorities across different states [should] ensure the protection of the civil rights of citizens including the right to protest and make demands of the elected government,” they said.
NAPM said these incidents are an attempt to suppress activists’ and civil society members’ right participation in protests and voice dissent.
“Such incidents need to be brought to the notice of the media and the public, and the authorities must be held accountable for them. Uttar Pradesh Govt should not be allowed to justify its rampant lawlessness on the arbitrary grounds of ‘law and order,’” they said.
Further, the organisation said such incidents are part of a broader pattern of arbitrary detentions of democratic rights activists and farmers’ leaders. This pattern reflects a rising trend to suppress dissent and people’s demands, contravening the Supreme Court’s stand that protest is people’s constitutional right.
“While this often takes place in the name of preventing the spread of the Coronavirus, it is in circumstances such as the present house arrest that the actual intention of the authoritarian State to clamp down on dissenting voices becomes clear,” said members of NAPM.