The CPI-M and a number of civil rights activists on Tuesday expressed shock over raids and arrest of certain intellectuals and activists, and said the government is targeting Dalit rights activists post Bhima Koregaon anti-Dalit violence in an "attempt to strike terror among those fighting for justice for the marginalised".
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said ever since the Bhima Koregoan violence against Dalits, the Maharashtra Police "along with central agencies" has been targeting Dalit rights activists and lawyers "who have been taking up their cases", and demanded immediate withdrawal of all cases.
In a joint statement, activists including Admiral L. Ramdas (retd), Harsh Mander, journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, and social activists Teesta Setalvad and Swami Agnivesh, among others, said terms like "urban naxals" are being invented "to stifle any criticism of the government".
They demanded immediate release of those arrested and dropping of "all false and malicious charges that are politically motivated and unjustified".
In the raids on Tuesday at the homes of nine activists in Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi, Goa and Hyderabad, the Maharashtra Police arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao and Arun Ferreira on charges of aiding the Naxals and hatching conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In June, the police in Pune had allegedly recovered a letter mentioning a plan to assassinate Modi from the house of one of the five persons arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence.
The statement said it was an attempt by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to "invent a false enemy and engage in scaremongering" to polarise voters ahead of the 2019 general elections.
"Already, the government and the media houses close to the BJP have been trying to spin a false narrative of a Maoist conspiracy since June 2018. Terms like 'urban naxals' are invented to stifle any criticism of the government," the statement said.
Miffed at the development, historian Ramchandra Guha lashed out at the Narendra Modi government, saying it would have arrested even Mahatma Gandhi.
"As a biographer of Gandhi, I have no doubt that if the Mahatma was alive today, he would don his lawyer's robes and defend Sudha Bharadwaj in court; that is assuming the Modi Sarkar hadn't yet detained and arrested him (Gandhi) too," Guha tweeted.
In a separate statement, rights body People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said the "systematic and pre-meditated crackdown" on human rights activists is "unprecedented and unheard of in a democracy"
"The PUCL strongly condemns this unconstitutional crackdown by the state and police," it said.
Besides, other activists across the country, including Kranti Tekula, Stan Swami and Anand Teltumbde, were raided as part of the ongoing probe into the alleged involvement of Maoist supporters in the Bhima Koregaon riots on January 1.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)