More than a hundred protesters gathered at Mysore Bank Circle on Saturday to condemn the recent arrests of human rights activists and left-wing intellectuals booked on alleged Maoist ties.
Organised by various civil rights groups under the banner of ‘Coalition to Defend the Constitution’, the protest was the second of such demonstrations in Bengaluru, following a People’s Lawyers Forum protest outside the high court on Friday.
The Coalition called on lawmakers to release the activists, reaffirm the right to free expression, repeal the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and prosecute vigilante groups who target dissenters. Individual citizens and representatives of groups such as the India Progressive Women’s Association and the Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union chanted and held posters that read ‘Defend our democracy’ and ‘No more fake charges’. Members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist Liberation) held and distributed red flags. Activist Shehla Rashid Shora, former vice president of the JNU students’ union, spoke to citizens at the protest, alleging that evidence produced by the Maharashtra police against lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj was fabricated “rubbish” and “straight out of a Bollywood movie.”
“There is no rule of the law left in this country. This is rightly called fascism—it’s not rhetoric,” Shora said. “What is happening in this government is that, if you commit a crime, a lynching, a rape, and you claim your allegiance to the BJP, then it’s all fine.”