The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has strongly condemned the arrest of reputed human rights defenders and advocates Thushar Nirmal Sarathy and Jaison C. Cooper under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in Kerala. They, like many others in the state, have been labeled "Maoist sympathizer" and are in jail since 30 January 2015.
Jaison, a well-known blogger has lent his voice to a variety of grassroots struggles of the marginalized and dispossessed sections of society in India and abroad. He was taken into custody on 29 January 2015 from Cochin, while Thushar was arrested after he addressed a press conference in Kozhikode the same day in Nalanda hotel.
The police approached him after Thushar finished his conference and asked him to come to the Chemmangad Police Station for some 'inquiry' which Thushar complied with. At the station his arrest was recorded and was later transferred to Kochi and is currently in judicial remand.
AHRC in a statement said, "Their arrests follow a pattern; the government has been targeting human rights defenders and rights activists by labeling them as "Maoist" sympathizers and thereby criminalizing them."
AHRC firther said that this is despite the Supreme Court order in the Binayak Sen case, which held that mere membership of a banned organization does not make a person criminal. The Bench, comprising Justices Markandeya Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra, stated that:
"In our opinion, Section 3(5) cannot be read literally as otherwise it will violate Articles 19 9(free speech) and 21 (liberty) of the Constitution. It has to be read in the light of our observations made above. Hence, mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence."
The AHRC has called upon the government of Kerala to intervene in this case, release Thushar Sarathy and Jaison Cooper unconditionally, and stop the police vendetta against the human rights defenders.