April 13, 2018 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Bengaluru: In a statement issued today, Amnesty International India (AII) said that the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath should release Dalit rights activist and founder of the “Bhim Army”, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ from administrative detention on the 127th birth anniversary of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.
The Bhim Army, named after Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, is a group of Dalit activists who campaign against caste-based discrimination and violence, and believe in empowering Dalits through education.
In a statement AII said: [o]ver 100,000 people across India have supported Amnesty International India’s campaign calling on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to release Chandrashekhar Azad. The petition launched on 4 April, requests people to give a missed call to 080 3045 6566 to show their support for Bhim Army leader, Chandrashekhar Azad.
“The overwhelming support for the campaign to release Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ shows that this campaign has struck a chord with people across India”, said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India.
The Uttar Pradesh government arrested Chandrashekhar Azad under the National Security Act (NSA) in November 2017. Under the NSA, Chandrashekhar Azad does not have the human rights protections that are part of ordinary criminal procedure and fair trial standards. He is at risk of being detained for up to 12 months without charge or trial.
“Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ has been held in administrative detention without charge or trial for the past six months. On Ambedkar Jayanti, we urge the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure the rights of the Dalit women and men challenging violence and discrimination against Dalits and claiming their constitutional rights”, said Asmita Basu.
Chandrashekhar Azad’s current term of administrative detention expires in May 2018. It was ordered by a non-judicial Advisory Board established under the NSA, which submitted a report to the Uttar Pradesh authorities stating that Chandrashekhar Azad should be detained for six months with effect from 2 November 2017. Hearings pertaining to Chandrashekhar Azad’s continued administrative detention are currently underway before the non-judicial Advisory Board.
“Detaining Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ sends a message that the Uttar Pradesh government would rather lock up dissenters than address the human rights concerns raised by the Bhim Army and other Dalit rights organisations”, said Asmita Basu.
Last week, Chandrashekhar Azad began an indefinite hunger strike demanding the release of Dalit protestors who were arrested during the 2 April ‘Bharat Bandh’, which was a strike of Dalit organisations across India, protesting against the 20 March order of the Supreme Court that dilutes the protections afforded by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.
Administrative detention laws allow for people to be detained without charge or trial. Under international law, administrative detention is only permitted in exceptional circumstances and when subjected to stringent safeguards. In India, administrative laws such as the NSA have often been used to detain individuals on vague grounds, ignoring regular criminal justice safeguards. The Supreme Court of India has described the system of administrative detention as “lawless.” Amnesty International opposes all systems of administrative detention.
Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh state police under the National Security Act (NSA), on 3 November 2017, a day after he was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court in relation to his arrest on 8 June 2017. He was charged with allegedly being involved in rioting, inciting violence and destroying public property, among other offences, following clashes between protesting Dalits and dominant caste groups. The unrest followed the killing of two Dalit men and the burning of at least 50 Dalit homes in Shabbirpur village, Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh, by men from a dominant caste in April and May 2017. He remained in detention for over four months, before he and 14 other arrested Dalit activists were granted bail on 2 November. Newspaper reports had quoted the judge saying that the charges against Chandrashekhar Azad appeared to have been politically motivated.