Arrested for undertaking a trek for peace to the Gandhi Memorial at Rajghat, after having walked for 200 kilometres, the 10 young men and a young woman journalist, Pradeepika Sraswat, are learnt to have launched a fast inside Ghazipir jail.
The 11 young ‘Satyagrahis’ were calling for peace, amity and communal harmony when they were arrested on February 11, ostensibly for ‘walking without permission’. Their bail application was allowed by the SDM the next day but only after laying down stringent conditions.
But refusing to be cowed down by the administration, the young activists, who were also opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), NPR and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), are learnt to have demanded their immediate and unconditional release.
"They started the hunger strike on Thursday evening, demanding that they should be released immediately,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, a Human Rights activist and convener of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights from Varanasi over the phone.
A prison official in Varanasi confirmed the claim. “The prison administration have provided them with all that they are entitled to but they have refused to accept any help," he said.
The group comprised social workers and the woman journalist. They had taken launched the 'Satyagrah Padyatra' from Gorakhpur's Chauri Chaura against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). The padyatra passed peacefully through Azamgarh and Mau but was stopped in Ghazipur. They were charged ironically for breaking peace and creating disturbances, charges which they have denied.
“How can these youth, who are just 10 in number, disturb peace? They have not issued any statement or given inflammatory speeches and still they were booked by Ghazipur police,” Raghuvanshi pointed out.
Commenting on the stringent conditions for bail, which include surety of Rs 2.50 lakh each and verification by m two gazetted officers and a letter of assurance that they would not continue with their ‘padayatra’, Raghuvanshi exclaimed, “This is preposterous”.
“Most of them are outsiders and do not belong to Ghazipur; the administration also knows very well that they cannot get verification by two gazetted officers on the issue of NRC and CAA. This is just another brazen attempt to stifle dissent,” he added.
The Human Rights Activist said that some activists tried to meet these youth in jail, but permission was denied as the “jail administration’ declared that until they end their hunger strike, no one would be allowed to meet them.”
In a statement released on Friday, CPI state secretary Sudhakar Yadav said that the action taken by the Yogi government against these youths show the government’s frustration and true colours.
“It seems like opposing policies of the government has become a crime. Instead of answering questions raised by the people and respecting the aspirations of the public, the Modi and Yogi governments are crushing the constitutional rights of the public by taking such dictatorial action, Yadav added.