LETTER TO MR. ANTONIO TAJANI, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (EP), REGARDING THE PRESENCE OF THE MINISTER OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS OF INDIA, MRS. SUSHMA SWARAJ, ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA IN THE EP
Dear President of the European Parliament,
We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, regret the presence of the Minister of External Affairs of India, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, on the International Day of Yoga in the European Parliament tomorrow, Thursday 21th. Indian government does not respect human rights, it does not allow people to have the same rights, it indiscriminately kills Adivasis and Dalits communities and religious minorities such as Muslim or Christian, and it imprisons human rights defenders.
The presence of the Minister of External Affairs of India, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, may jeopardize the good name of the European Parliament as a guarantor of the defense of human rights.
We condemn the arrests made by Maharashtra police in the early morning of June 6, 2018 of:
• Surendra Gadling, human rights lawyer and general secretary of the Indian Association of Peopleʹs Lawyers, which has represented activists and others arrested on fabricated charges.
• Rona Wilson, member of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners,
which has campaigned against the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and other repressive laws.
• Sudhir Dhawale, Dalit rights activist and the editor of the Marathi magazine ʹVidrohiʹ.
• Shoma Sen, professor at Nagpur University.
• Mahesh Raut, land rights activist.
Regarding the words of Aakar Patel, Executive Director Amnesty International India: ʹThese arrests are a matter of grave concern. Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut have a history of working to protect the rights of some of Indiaʹs most marginalized people. Their arrests raise disturbing questions about whether they are being targeted for their activism. Anyone arrested for legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression must be released immediately and unconditionally.ʹ
During the current European Parliament term, two written questions have been addressed to the European Commission regarding the situation of the Indian teacher GN Saibaba.
He has a 90% physical disability, aggravated in recent months with acute pancreatitis, and was recommended the removal of his gallbladder. Because of this, this life imprisonment sentence is actually a death sentence for this professor, who has done nothing but defend the rights of the Adivasis and Dalits people with words, as well as denounce the counterinsurgency strategy ʹOperation Green Huntʹ.
The answers given by Vice-President Mogherini on behalf of the European Commission were the following: ʹThe EU has been closely following cases of human rights defenders arrested in India, including the cases of professor Saibaba, accused of having links with Naxal militants, and of Ms. Arundathi Roy, accused of contempt of court for her article defending the cause of Professor Saibaba.
The EU Delegation in New Delhi has made appeals on humanitarian grounds with the National Human Rights Commission. The EU attaches great importance to the issues at stake, most importantly to the freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial and the rights of human rights defenders. These issues are also addressed at the EU-India human rights dialogue.ʹ ʹThe EU continues to follow the case of professor Saibaba convicted by sessions court in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra in March 2017.
As Professor Saibaba lodged an appeal against the verdict with the Nagpur High Court, the case is still sub judice. The EU has been raising the case on humanitarian grounds with the Indian authorities.ʹ How can the European Parliament allow the presence of a Minister of a Government that defends that there are first and second humans, indiscriminately kills the Adivasis, Dalits and religious minoritiesʹ population and that imprison human rights activists? We urge the cancellation of the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, in the European Parliamient and demands the immediate release of Prof. GN Saibaba, Advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson Mahesh Raut and all human rights defenders in India.
MEP Lídia Senra
MEP Julie Ward
20th of June 2018