After the Maharashtra police arrested five human rights activists under the charges of controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on Tuesday following synchronised raids at eight locations across five states — Maharashtra, Goa, Telangana, Delhi, and Jharkhand — in connection with an alleged plot by the Maoist extremists to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and caste violence at Bhima-Koregaon received strong criticism from the rights activists, academicians, and the Opposition. The entire saga has put a question mark on the very circumstances in which the Modi assassination plot has mushroomed in the last few months.
While Telugu poet Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonsalves, and Arun Ferreira were taken into custody from Hyderabad, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha were arrested from Faridabad and New Delhi respectively.
The police action against these activists was carried out after two letters, supposedly exchanged by the Maoist leaders, indicating plans to assassinate Prime Minister Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. As per the police sources, ‘the activists were allegedly hatching a big controversy and had even shortlisted 35 colleges for recruitment.’
Moreover, a three-judge Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra provided interim relief to the five activists arrested on Tuesday by ordering they will be kept under house arrest till the next date of hearing on September 6. Hearing the case, Justice DY Chandrachud said, “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow the safety valve pressure cooker will burst.” The hearing was conducted after Historian Romila Thapar and four activists moved the Supreme Court against the arrest on Tuesday for suspected Maoist links.
The court has also issued notices to the Centre and Maharashtra government, seeking their replies.
Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Avadhut Wagh asserted, “The arrested ones are not intellectuals or activists, they are anti-nationals. Plotting the assassination of PM Modi is a serious offence and the details of the investigations can’t be disclosed at this earlier stage of the probe for security purposes.”
“Let the police go in-depth in the investigation. Bhima-Koregaon clash was instigated by the urban Naxals and they are more dangerous than their counterparts in the forests. The BJP government believes in justice for all and appeasement of none,” he added.
As per the security officials, one of the letters from 2016 suggested careful contemplation to kill Modi, Shah and Singh, and a parallel letter found this year from the residence of a Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson referred to the intent to execute a Rajiv Gandhi assassination-like attack on the PM during one of his road shows, requirement of Rs 8 crore to purchase M-4 rifle, and four lakh rounds. Police reports say that the letter was written by Milind Teltumbde, a top Communist Party of India (Maoist) operative to Rona Wilson on January 2, a day after the Bhima Koregaon violence. Following that, on June 6, Wilson was arrested along with Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, and Soma Sen from different locations in Maharashtra for alleged Maoist links and giving “provocative” speeches at the Elgar Parishad event before Bhima-Koregaon event.
Justice (retired) BG Kolse Patil, who was one of the organisers of the Elgar Parishad, called the activists’ arrest illegal and alleged that the government is trying to divert the attention from the controversies around Sanatan Sanstha. “BJP always wants to create hype over PM Modi’s assassination. BJP wants to defame the Elgar Parishad, me and former justice PB Sawant. Both Modi and Shah are the murders and Urban Naxalism is a meaningless term invented by BJP; all these are propaganda for the upcoming election.”
The police had claimed to have found evidence like emails, documents, and literature indicating that the left-wing extremists (LWE) were actively involved in the planning. While many have raised a doubt on the authenticity of the letters and the way the arrests on Tuesday have taken place, activists have widely condemned the arrests, saying ‘it is meant to muzzle the voice of the disenfranchised’. A Delhi High Court bench too questioned that how Pune police managed to get a transit remand from a Delhi court without any local witness! It also raised a doubt over how the FIR, lodged in Marathi, was read out to the lower court judge.
Advocate Monica Arora stated, “Naxalism is the biggest threat to India’s internal security. It wants to create a movement that can be against the common people, Indian establishment, and the system. Police reports suggest that Bhima-Koregaon violence was a conspiracy by the Urban Naxalists.”
“Investigations are on to bring out more information about the involvement of the ones arrested. Urban Naxalists targets the marginalised people from the tribal areas and their effort is to keep them away from the mainstream. Waiting to know further information from the future charge sheet,” she added.
Going by the reports, the recent raids were conducted following the ones carried out in June this year to prove the Bhima-Koregaon clashes that claimed a life, though the ‘plot to kill the Prime Minister’ dominating all of a sudden has raised many eyebrows. There is a large part of independent political analysts who suggested that the matter needs to be investigated with the utmost of scepticism; they have attacked the Modi-led central government for their repeated attempts to destroy the country’s democratic institutions, and creating an atmosphere of fear.
While the union government has come out in full support of the police department, the Netizens have also questioned why the discovery of the Prime Minister’s assassination plot appeared at a time when the BJP has lost a string of elections and by-elections to an increasingly unified, secular opposition. They have asked whether all these are the last efforts by the BJP government keeping an eye on the 2019 general elections!