Bhima Koregaon arrests: True authoritarian character of the Modi govt exposed, Sitaram Yechury
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Bhima Koregaon arrests: True authoritarian character of the Modi govt exposed, Sitaram Yechury

Varun Chirumamilla

Political leaders from across the spectrum today voiced their opposition to the arrest of a number of activists, ostensibly in relation to the Bhima Koregaon violence that took place last year.

Today, the Pune police raided residences and workplaces of nine activists across the country. Raids were conducted in Delhi, Faridabad, Hyderabad, Goa, Mumbai, and Ranchi in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Four persons – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, and Vernon Gonsalves – were arrested for their alleged roles in the violence that broke between Dalits and upper castes in what came to be known as the Bhima Koregaon riots in December.

Vara Vara Rao, a revolutionary poet, was arrested after a letter seized by the police following the riots allegedly pointed to his involvement in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the background of these arrests and raids, Bar & Bench spoke to leaders of different political parties. This is what they had to say.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said,

“Instead of prosecuting those who perpetrated violence against Dalits, they are going after activists who have stood up for their rights. This is nothing but a direct assault on democratic rights and fundamental freedoms, especially given the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The true authoritarian character of the Modi government is there for everybody to see.”

Professor PL Vishweshawar Rao of the Telangana Jana Samithi expressed similar views on the arrests.

This government will not broach any criticism or dissent from any quarter. These people have been arrested on flimsy grounds that material pertaining to a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister was found in their possession. This is ludicrous; these are not stupid people.”

He added that the arrests were a purely intimidatory tactic meant to gag those who choose to exercise their rights and speak up against what they think is going wrong in this country.

“This is almost like stepping back into the Emergency era”, he added.

On the other hand, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson M Raghunandan Rao rubbished these assertions.

“Any Indian Government or Prime Minister owes his allegiance to the Constitution. When a crime is registered against an individual he or she must be arrested, that is the law of the land. Crimes were registered against our party workers and a Member of Legislative Assembly was arrested during the Bhima Koregaon incident.

In the case of Vara Vara Rao, he has been charged with conspiracy in the past and faced the courts. This was during Congress Rule. An accused is an accused, and to politicise these arrests is unwarranted.”

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