SC extends house arrest of activists

The Supreme Court today extended the house arrest of five rights activists arrested over suspicion of links with Maoists, till September 12. The apex court also asked the Maharashtra government to direct its police to be more responsible when the matter is heard by it.

Lawyer and trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj, revolutionary poet P Varavara Rao, civil rights activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha, and lawyers and activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested after near-simultaneous raids across five states.

They were charged with criminal conspiracy, creating fear and enmity between various groups, and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The arrests were part of an investigation into the violence that rocked Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra on January 1 during the bicentennial celebration of a British-era war.

The Maharashtra government yesterday told the Supreme Court that the five rights activists were arrested due to the cogent evidence linking them with the banned CPI(Maoist) and not because of their dissenting views. The state’s response came in the backdrop of the court’s remark stating that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy”.

The Maharashtra police also filed an affidavit in response to a plea of historian Romila Thapar and four others challenging the arrest of the five activists, claiming they were planning to carry out violence in the country and ambush the security forces.

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