As three of the five activists arrested across India were produced in a Pune court on Wednesday, public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar claimed that they were members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) and constituted an “anti-fascist front” that aims to overthrow the government.
On Tuesday, Pune police in multiple raids across India had detained five human rights activists on accusations of having links to Maoists.
Activist Sudha Bhardwaj from Faridabad, Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Gautam Navlakha from Delhi, Arun Pereira and Venon Gonsalves from Mumbai have been detained by the police.
Moreover, Varavara Rao was arrested for his alleged involvement in a plot to ‘assassinate Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’. His name had come up in a ‘letter detailing the plan’ seized by the police during searches.
Two activists, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha had petitioned the High Courts and had been placed under house arrest. But the police had managed to bring three others to Pune – Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao.
Pawar made arguments in the Pune sessions court in an attempt to secure their custody.
Before the court could rule on the matter, the Supreme Court, in a near-simultaneous hearing of a petition filed by five eminent citizens challenging the arrests, ordered that all five detained activists should be held under house arrest until September 6.
While granting the arrested activists some reprieve, the Apex Court of India said that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy and if the you don’t allow the safety valve pressure cooker will burst.”
Since the arrests, a hashtag on twitter is trending where people are calling themselves #UrbanNaxals and showing support for the activists by using #MeTooUrbanNaxal.
The trend started after filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri asked “bright young minds” to volunteer to “make a list of those who are defending #UrbanNaxals” on Twitter, following the arrest of five activists on suspicion of Maoist links in the Bhima Koregaon violence, who he thinks are the ‘invisible enemies of India’.
I want some bright young people to make a list of all those who are defending #UrbanNaxals Let’s see where it leads. If you want to volunteer with commitment, pl DM me. @squintneon would you like to take the lead?
— Vivek Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) August 28, 2018
In response, a ‘hit list’ was actually prepared.
Author and social activist Arundhati Roy while condemning the raids has said that it’s a declaration of emergency.
She said, “they (the government) should raid those who make up lynch mobs and murder people in broad daylight. It tells us very clearly where India is headed. Murderers will be honoured and celebrated. Anybody who speaks up for justice or against Hindu majoritarianism is being made into a criminal. What is happening is absolutely perilous.”
Like this story? Producing quality journalism costs. Make a Donation & help keep our work going.