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Published On: Thu, Aug 30th, 2018

“Dissent is the safety valve of democracy”-Top Court

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right wingNEW DELHI : The Maharashtra Police’s arrested prominent writers and left-wing activists for suspected links to banned Maoist rebels, sparking outrage across the country.
The move to arrest five well-known activists has been punctured on August 29 with the Supreme Court observing that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy” and directing that those in its custody be kept under house arrest.
Meanwhile, a court in Pune has directed the city police to send the arrested human rights activists to their homes, after the Supreme Court’s order that they be kept under house arrest till September 6.

Those arrested yesterday are: Varavara Rao (President, Revolutionary Democratic Front), Sudha Bharadwaj (Vice-President, Indian Association of People’s Lawyers), Gautam Navlakha (Leader, People’s Union for Democratic Rights), Vernon Gonsalves (ex-Secretary, Maharashtra State Committee of CPI/Maoist) and Arun Ferreira (ex-Member, Maharashtra State Committee of CPI-Maoist).
The arrests on Tuesday drew condemnation from human rights groups who called the police raids a “massive crackdown” on government critics. In a series of coordinated operations, police arrested five activists accusing them of delivering speeches that triggered protests and violence near the western city of Pune last year.
The government says Maoist rebels, who are active in several states, are India’s biggest internal security threat.The raids on Tuesday were in connection to an ongoing probe into the violence between lower caste Dalits and right-wing groups at Maharashtra’s Bhima Koregaon village on December 31.
‘Atmosphere of fear’
The crackdown was condemned by lawyers, academics, authors and rights watchdogs, with government critics accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of attempting to silence its opponents.
“The nationwide crackdown on activists, advocates and human rights defenders is disturbing and threatens core human rights values,” Amnesty International’s Indian chapter and NGO Oxfam India said in a joint statement.
“The government should protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear,” said Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India.

Booker-prize winning author Arundhati Roy, an outspoken critic of Modi, said the “perilous” arrests on “ludicrous charges” were an attempt to muzzle freedom ahead of next year’s polls. “The simultaneous state-wide arrests are a dangerous sign of a government that fears it is losing its mandate and is falling into panic,” Roy told Pti.
In July, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders warned of deteriorating press freedom in the world’s largest democracy amid a sharp rise in online hate campaigns directed at critics of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.
As many as 128 organisations suspected to have links with Maoists were identified by the UPA government in 2012 and some of those arrested by the Maharashtra Police yesterday were part of these front organisations of the extremist group. As voices against Modi government grew shriller for acting against human rights activists, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the nodal ministry which deals with left wing extremism, came out with facts and figures to justify the action of the Pune police.
The ministry said  “The UPA government had, in December 2012, identified 128 organisations with links to the CPI (Maoists) and written to all state governments asking them to take action against people involved with these organisations.

“The current case involves the links of these individuals with the CPI (Maoist), a banned organisation operating with the devious objective of overthrowing democratic order, and the support provided by them to the CPI (Maoist),” explained an official dealing with the Left Wing Extremism desk.
The Pune police have submitted a detailed report regarding the arrests and ongoing investigations to the ministry.
The Supreme Court has issued notice to Maharashtra government and its police on the plea against arrests of five human rights activists. The apex court directs the State govt to respond by September 4 on a plea of historian Romila Thapar and four others on the activists’ arrest. The matter will now come up for hearing on September 6.
A Supreme Court Bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, is to hear the plea moved by Ms. Thapar and four others against the arrests of the activists. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of them, seeks an independent probe into the arrests.
The petition was moved by Ms. Thapar, Devaki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maja Dharuwala. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared on behalf of them. While issuing notice to Maharashtra the SC observes that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow these safety valves, it will burst”.
“A political trial must be fought politically and I welcome this opportunity. I have to do nothing. It is for the Maharashtra police, working at the behest of their political masters, to prove their case against me, and my comrades who too have been arrested,” he says.

“Now I myself will be a witness to a political trial with a ringside view,” he says and tags a revolutionary song, “Tu zinda hai toh zindagi ki jeet par yakeen kar…”, often sung by Leftists.

Ms. Bharadwaj, who was picked up by the Maharashtra police for her suspected links with Maoists, says that those speaking against human rights violation and fighting for the rights of Dalits and tribals were being targeted by the “present regime“. She has been confined to her residence in Faridabad, under the guard of police officers, and allowed to meet only her lawyer.

“I think whatever is the opposition to the present regime, whether it is on Dalit rights, tribal rights, or human rights, everybody who is in the opposition is being rounded up in this manner.My mobile, laptop and a pen drive have been seized. I apprehend they are going to play around with this data. My Gmail and Twitter passwords have also been taken,” she tells reporters.(With Agency Inputs ).





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