Houses of nine human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists were raided, and as many as five were arrested over alleged ‘Maoists links’ during a multi-city police crackdown on Tuesday, in Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, and Ranchi. A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra is currently hearing the petition challenging the crackdown and demanding the release of all the arrested activists.
August 29, 2018: Senior lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan and some others filed the petition challenging the arrests in the Apex court on Wednesday morning. A bench headed by CJI Mishra started hearing the petition at 3:45 pm on Wednesday.
Activists and public figures like JNU scholar Umar Khalid, senior journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, actress Swara Bhaskar, Jignesh Mevani, among many others released a public statement claiming that the arrests were an attempt to ‘strike terror among those who are fighting for justice for the marginalised’. They also accused the government of diverting attention from the involvement of the Sanatan Sanstha who allegedly conspired bomb attacks on Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi.
August 28, 2018: On Tuesday evening, activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, and P Varavara Rao were arrested without any warrants under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The recent arrests are in connection with the ongoing investigation of the involvement of Maoists in the Bhima Koregaon violence on December 31.
Pan India raids were conducted by police, without any warrants, to probe the alleged conspiracy to assassinate PM Modi on Tuesday morning.
June 6, 2018: Similarly, in June this year, Pune police arrested five activists Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Jati Antachi Chalwal, Mahesh Raut, and Surendra Gadling were arrested. According to the police, the accused incited caste-based violence in Maharashtra and were raising funds from banned Maoists outfits to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in ‘Rajiv Gandhi style’.
How the nation reacted
While the investigation on the previous arrests has still not proved the charges, the recent crackdown has enraged the public intellectuals. Activists, politicians, and journalists have condemned the ruling BJP government for using police to curb dissent and termed the arrests as ‘virtual declaration of national emergency’.
Soon after the arrests, author and Nobel laureate Arundhati Roy called the situation extremely perilous and said, “That the raids are taking place on the homes of lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals – instead of on those who make up lynch mobs and murder people in broad daylight tells us very clearly where India is headed.”
Lending weight to Roy’s concerns, a noted historian Ramachandra Guha said that if Mahatma Gandhi was alive, he would have donned his lawyer’s robes and would have defended the arrested activists. He further stated that with the Centre lending support to such crackdowns, the current situation is similar to the national emergency of 1975.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi also didn’t miss the cue and launched a scathing attack on the ruling party.
There is only place for one NGO in India and it's called the RSS. Shut down all other NGOs. Jail all activists and shoot those that complain.
Welcome to the new India. #BhimaKoregaon
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 28, 2018