In a recent development, the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) has strongly condemned the arrest of activist Brijesh Kushwaha and his three-month pregnant wife, Prabha Kushwaha, by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS). The couple, associated with the Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Manch and the Savitri Bai Phule Sangharsh Samiti, respectively, was apprehended on October 18. The timing of these arrests has raised suspicions within the activist community, with CASR asserting that this is part of a pattern of targeting democratic rights activists ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Notably, Brijesh and Prabha Kushwaha had been named in a First Information Report (FIR) in 2019, although they were not arrested at the time due to a lack of "credible material evidence." Their electronic devices were seized by the ATS during this earlier investigation. The ATS now claims that a forensic science laboratory has found Maoist literature on their devices and alleges their involvement in "anti-national activities" and the promotion of Communist ideology. This situation draws parallels with the case of late Fr. Stan Swamy, where evidence was allegedly planted on seized electronic devices by the police.
Furthermore, CASR points out that these arrests align with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducting raids across the country under the pretext of "Maoist links" and targeting democratic rights activists, intellectuals, and lawyers to suppress their voices in the lead-up to the elections. Even in cases where no evidence was initially discovered, it is alleged that proof mysteriously emerges in the possession of government agencies after a considerable period.
CASR strongly condemned these arrests, labelling them as part of a broader trend to silence democratic voices. The organization has issued a demand for the immediate release of all political prisoners and an end to politically motivated arrests.
The CASR, a coalition comprising multiple organizations including AIRSO, AISA, AISF, APCR, BASF, BSM, Bhim Army, Bigul Mazdoor Dasta, bsCEM, CEM, CRPP, CTF, Disha, DISSC, DSU, DTF, Forum Against Repression Telangana, Fraternity, IAPL, Innocence Network, Karnataka Janashakti, LAA, Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, Mazdoor Patrika, Morcha Patrika, NAPM, NBS, Nishant Natya Manch, Nowruz, NTUI, People's Watch, Rihai Manch, Samajwadi Janparishad, Smajwadi Lok Manch, Bahujan Samjavadi Mnach, SFI, United Against Hate, United Peace Alliance, WSS, and Y4S, has come together to voice their concerns about these developments. Their collective stance highlights the growing concerns over the erosion of democratic values in India and the increasing clampdown on dissenting voices.
This situation emphasizes the need for transparency, accountability, and the protection of democratic rights, especially during a critical political juncture in the country.