NEW DELHI: Petitioners who had earlier approached the Supreme Court against the arrest of five civil rights activists in the Bhima-Koregaon case in August 2018 - Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Maya Daruwala, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande- have issued a statement decrying the “illegal” arrest of Professor Anand Teltumbde. He was released subsequently by the Pune Police who had violated the Supreme Court orders .

The signatories have condemned the effort to silence dissent. The text of the statement reads :

" While the illegal arrest of Professor Anand Teltumbde by the Maharashtra Police in defiance of the Supreme Court has been set aside for the time being, the fact that it occurred at all points to the break-down of rule of law within a government agency whose duty it is to uphold the law. It makes a mockery of our constitutional guarantees, of due process and of democracy itself. The motivation behind these arrests and the abuse of process they highlight has been strongly questioned by many, but these serious doubts and even the reservations of the higher judiciary have been ignored by government.

Professor Teltumbde’s arrest demonstrates that the procedure of arresting people without proven evidence, is now government policy. That academics, intellectuals, writers, lawyers and others are arrested at will without due process or reasonable cause is a frontal attack on the right to think freely and express and discuss an opinion in public.

Those that have been arrested will be incarcerated for years to come, judging by the fact that even the five "activists” arrested last year, spend month after month in jail without a proper judicial hearing. This is a well known way of silencing citizens who express dissent or work towards establishing basic human rights, and suggests that the state is willing to subvert the Constitution.

It is time, therefore, for concerned citizens to build a broad-based, peaceful and constitutional resistance to such subversion of due process and abuse of authority. We also appeal to the judiciary to arrest this regressive trend that threatens to destroy India's hard-won democratic traditions. "

Romila Thapar
Devaki Jain
Maja Daruwala
Prabhat Patnaik
Satish Deshpande