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'Arrests should be actually of those who spread terror through assassination, lynching'

Wednesday August 29, 2018 8:10 PM, News Network

Romila Thapar

New Delhi: Challenging the arrests of Left-wing activists and lawyers, historian Romila Thapar told Supreme Court of India on Wednesday that those spreading terror through assassination and lynching should be arrested, and not the people who are fighting for human rights.

"Arrests should surely be of those who actually spread terror in society through assassination and lynching, and not of those who work for human rights - the rights that are essential to citizenship and democracy? Are these arrests a demonstration to show that the democratic rights of the Indian citizen have been annulled?" Romila Thapar asked in the petition also filed by three others.

The petitioners also said that the arrests of lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, and activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves were meant to muzzle dissent, , and urged the court to hold their arrests.

Thapar was actually referring to the murders of Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, CPI leader Govind Pansare and scholar MM Kalburgi, Journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, and a number of incidents wherein Muslims and Dalits were lynched by violent mob.

In response to the petition, the Supreme Court of India then ordered the house arrests of all the five activists till September 06, saying dissent was "safety valve" of democracy.

"Dissent is the safety valve of democracy and if you don't allow these safety valves, it will burst," the Supreme Court said.

The observation by India's top court came in response to a petition filed by historian Romila Thapar and others challenging the arrests of lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj and four others by the Pune police.

The SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra also directed the Centre and Maharashtra government to file responses to the petition challenging the arrests.

The five activists will now not be sent to jail till September 6 but will remain in house arrest under police watch following the SC order.

The Pune Police had arrested the activists and lawyers in connection with an FIR lodged there following an event -- 'Elgaar Parishad' (conclave) -- held on December 31 last year that had triggered violence at Koregaon-Bhima village.

Meanwhile, the Pune police in its report sent to the Centre said, "The UPA Government had, in December 2012, identified 128 organizations with linkages to the CPI (Maoists) and written to all states asking them to take action against people involved with these organizations. Seven of those — Varavara Rao, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Mahesh Raut — arrested belong to organizations appearing in this list."

"The CPI (Maoist), towards achievement of their ultimate objective of seizure of political power through protracted peoples war, attaches immense importance to the 'Urban Movement' which works towards creation of a United Front in support of their movement", the report said.

"The 'Urban Movement' is the main source for providing leadership & resources to CPI (Maoist). The responsibility for provision of supplies, technologies, expertise, information and other logistic support is also shouldered by overground activists in urban centres", it added.

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