The CPM accused the Centre of "attacking the democratic rights of people" as the Pune police, in a multi-city sweep, arrested five activists and raid nine under allegations of Maoist links today. The arrests have triggered shock and anger, and author Arundhati Roy has called it a "virtual declaration of emergency".
"This is a brazen attack on democratic rights and liberties," CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. The BJP government, he said, is "desperately trying to protect the culprits of Koregaon-Bhima violence by harassing civil and human rights activists."
The police said the raids and arrests were part of an investigation into the violence at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune on December 31 last year, during which Dalits had clashed with upper caste members.
In June, activists Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Shoma Sen, were arrested for allegedly making "provocative" speeches at the event. Today's raids were carried out on basis of their interrogation, the police said.
Mr Yechury said the arrests were meant to shield the real culprits involved in the violence. "Ever since the Bhima-Koregaon violence on December 31, the Maharashtra police, along with central agencies have been targeting Dalit rights activists and lawyers who are taking up the case," Mr Yechury said.
Author and historian Ramachandra Guha also said the arrests of the activists were meant to rob tribals of representation in court.
"What is happening in the adivasi heartland of India... it is murder, rape, physical, natural, social... and these were the lawyers representing the tribals... and their arrest leaves those dispossessed unrepresented in court," he added.
The police, Mr Yechury said, are wrongfully invoking the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against the activists. "We demand that police stop harassing the activists and arrest the actual culprits involved in the clashes," he said.
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