India: Free the Bhima Koregaon 11 (BK11)
In 2018 as part of a massive crackdown on human rights defenders in India, nine prominent activists were arrested after police claimed they were involved in the violence that erupted between two ethnic groups – the Dalits and Hindus – in the state of Maharashtra. Two further activists were arrested n April 2020.
Together, they are the Bhima Koregaon 11, or BK11: Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde.
Following the arrests, an aggressive smear campaign was launched against them by the government shortly after, claiming them to be ‘anti-nationals’ working against India. Many mainstream media outlets have already branded them ‘guilty’.
They have been charged under a draconian ‘anti-terror’ law and remain jailed, pending their trial.
The BK11 have fought bravely for the rights of India’s poor and most unfairly treated communities.
They are lawyers, artists and trade unionists who in many and varied ways have stood up for the Dalit and Adavasi minority communities.
To these people the BK11 are seen as national heroes.
Human rights at risk
The arrests of these important activists is a worrying attempt to derail the human rights movement in India.
It’s part of a wider crackdown on human rights activists, with our own Amnesty India office being raided in October 2017.
Narendra Modi’s nationalist government is largely responsible.
This is not the way a major world power should behave - so let’s show him that the world is watching.
We must tell the Indian Prime Minister that attacking activists who are heroes for some of the most marginalised communities in India is not in the nation’s best interest.
Email India's Home Minister demanding the immediate release of the Bhima Koregaon 11.