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IFJ demands full details for arrest of journalist in Maharashtra State

(IFJ/IFEX) - 5 January 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on police in India's Maharashtra state to provide all details of the circumstances surrounding the arrest of journalist Sudhir Dhawle, in the state's eastern district of Wardha on January 2.

According to IFJ sources in Maharashtra, Dhawle had visited the neighbouring district of Gondia to attend a convention on Adivasi and Dalit literature (i.e., the literature of India's indigenous communities and those traditionally disadvantaged under the country's caste system) on January 1. He was on his way back home in the state capital of Mumbai, when he was arrested at the Wardha railway station.

Dhawle has been booked under provisions of Indian law dealing with sedition and waging war against the State. According to police accounts, the basis for his arrest is the interrogation of a purported leader of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), taken into custody a few days prior.

Journalists and civil society groups in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra have reacted sharply to Dhawle's arrest, seeing it as part of a pattern of victimisation of human rights defenders in parts of the state affected by a long-running Maoist insurgency.

Dhawle is editor of a magazine of dissenting opinion titled Vidrohi, and a freelance contributor to numerous other publications. He was active in civil rights movements in the state and elsewhere.

"We call for clarity on the circumstances of Dhawle's arrest since there has been little evidence produced to implicate him in any wrongdoing or proscribed political activity," said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"Information reportedly gathered through the interrogation of a person in custody, and the journalist's possession of radical literature, cannot be a credible basis for arresting him or for booking him under charges of such extreme severity."

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