The European Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights (DROI) has expressed concerns to the Indian government over the arrest of tribal rights activists Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha and leaders of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests.
In a letter sent to the Union home minister on Thursday, the chair of the subcommittee, Marie Arena, also expressed concern at the action taken by the government against activists and others such as Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider, Kafeel Khan and Sharjeel Imam.
There was no immediate reaction to the development from Indian officials.
“It is in this context that we are closely following the protection of human rights defenders in India and wish to express serious concerns about the recent arrests of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency,” Arena wrote in her letter.
“It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favour of India’s poorest and most marginalized communities, without becoming subject to intimidation and harassment, but equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), are used to silence them,” she added.
In the letter, she also expressed concern at the recent arrest of students and activists, who have been leading the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), under the anti-terror law UAPA.
The European Parliament had also “noticed that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, have been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests under this umbrella. This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam who were recently arrested by the Police,” the letter said.
The EU’s human rights body further demanded that the government should stop criminalizing the work of human rights activists.
“We strongly believe that measures should be urgently taken to stop impeding and criminalizing the work of human rights defenders by means of overly broad national security legislation and to respect their freedoms of association and expression,” said the panel.