Condemning the recent police raid on PUCL national secretary Kavita Srivastava's house, civil society representatives and National Advisory Council (NAC) members have urged the Manmohan Singh government to look at its policies in relation to human rights activists.
NAC members-Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander, Deep Joshi and Farah Naqvi-along with more than a hundred academicians, lawyers and activists, including Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar, have protested against the police raid on Srivastava's house and office in Jaipur on October 3. The raid was reportedly carried out in search of Soni Sori, a primary school teacher from Chhattisgarh, who is suspected to have links with Maoists. Sori was later arrested from New Delhi.
Calling the raid an attempt to muffle the dissenting voice in the society, Roy, in a letter sent to the PM on Thursday, compared the incident with those led to the sentencing of Chhattisgarh-based activist Binayak Sen, who was also PUCL vice-president.
"What will happen to the Indian state, if human rights activists are branded as extremists, and not allowed to function? We urge the government to look at its policies in relation to human rights workers and institutions, as failure to do so may indeed damage the relationship between the people and the state further," Roy stated. Mander told HT that he endorsed Roy's letter.
"Such raids on human rights defenders seek to delegitimize democratic activities and repress public support," a statement by Naqvi and Joshi said.
The statement, which was also sent to home minister P Chidambaram, blamed the central intelligence agencies for what it described as a slander against Srivastava and PUCL for having played 'a vital role of standing up for human rights of ordinary people.' The NAC member also defended the constitutional and human rights of Sori.