SC to hear petition challenging arrest of HR activist Gautam Navlakha, four others

The Supreme Court of India will hear a petition today which challenges the arrests of five activists across the country along with raids in their homes. The arrests have drawn flak, with noted author and social activist Arundhati Roy condemning the raids on the “homes of lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals”.

The petitioners include historian Romila Thapar and four other right activists who have asked for the arrest to be put on hold, seeking an independent probe.

Activist Sudha Bhardwaj from Faridabad is under house arrest while Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Gautam Navlakha from Delhi, Arun Pereira and Venon Gonsalves from Mumbai have been arrested by the police.

The five have been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the criminal law. According to police sources, the activists were allegedly “hatching a big controversy” and had even shortlisted 35 colleges for recruitment, NDTV reported.

The raids follow the questioning of five people — Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Shoma Sen — who were arrested in June for Maoist links, sources said. They had allegedly made “provocative” speeches before the Bhima-Koregaon event.

Joint Commissioner of Pune Police Shivaji Bhodke said that their investigations into Maoist activities led to these raids and arrests. “The Koregaon Bhima violence was one of the outcomes of their activities,” Mr Bhodke said. He added that they monitored the activities of the accused for a week before the arrests.

Rahul Gandhi tweeted about the arrests of the activists, saying, “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.”

Historian Ramachandra Guha blamed it on the “corporate cronies of the ruling government,” who, he said, were bent on grabbing tribal land, forest and mineral resources. The arrest of the activists was meant to take away the only representation the tribals have, he told NDTV.


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