GUWAHATI, Sept 3 - Intellectuals of the State today slammed the BJP-led government over the arrest of writer Vernon Gonsalves, advocate and human rights activist Arun Ferreira, Telugu poet and critic Varavara Rao, advocate and activist Sudha Bharadwaj and human rights activist Gautam Navalakha and termed the act a blatant attack on freedom of speech.
On August 28, Maharashtra Police had arrested them on charges of allegedly inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon on January 1. They were arrested from different places of the country and the Supreme Court later ordered that the five be kept under house arrest till September 6.
�We are not in support of terrorism or extremist movement. But it is also clear that we will never accept violation of human rights in the name of controlling extremism or armed movement. Arresting those five noted personalities who have been fighting for the rights of backward people is an attack on free speech,� former director general of Assam Police and writer Harekrishna Deka said while addressing a press meet here under the banner of Asom Nagarik Samaj, a group of intellectuals of the State.
�Atrocity by government force is not new, especially in Assam. During both Congress and AGP government tenures, many activists who had raised their voice for the rights of common people had faced atrocities. Such atrocities start when a government fails in its duty. It does it to deviate the mind of the common man. Interestingly, journalists are becoming the main target of the government force,� senior journalist Ajit Kumar Bhuyan said.
A statement issued by the Asom Nagarik Samaj said, �The five arrested persons are reputed intellectuals and scholars in their respective fields. All of them have been fighting for the rights of Adivasis, Dalits and other backward people. In the country the corporate group extracts natural resources by neglecting the rights of the Adivasis and backward people, and the five arrested persons are fighting against such activities. They are also opposing the privatisation of national assets. Now after their arrest, the question that arises is, whether or not the common people of the country have the right to raise their voice against government rule and policy.�
Senior journalist Prasanta Rajguru while criticising the government, said, �The arrest is a conspiracy and it has been done by the lobby involved in the business of bauxite. For the past few years a conspiracy has been under way to stop the voice of intellectuals of the country. Many intellectuals lost their lives and some others have faced atrocities. It is the right of every individual to support any ideology he likes. So, arresting anyone for supporting or following any ideology is a sign of undeclared emergency.�