Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren was among the first politicians to condemn the police raids at the homes of human rights activists in multiple cities across the country on Tuesday.
“As the General Elections 2019 draws closer, the [BJP government] at the Centre and respective BJP state govts [governments] have now resorted to repressive and unconstitutional methods to suppress all voices of dissent,” Soren wrote on Twitter. “This is condemnable and displays their dictatorial nature.”
On Tuesday morning, teams of the Pune Police raided the houses of activists in Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Delhi, Faridabad and Goa. Among those whose houses were searched are Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi, Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and Stan Swamy in Ranchi.
In Hyderabad, raids were reported from the homes of Varavara Rao and his family members, and two other activists, Kranti and Naseem. In Goa, Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde’s house was raided in his absence. Police reportedly took the keys from the security guard and walked in.
Some of these activists have been detained by police. The raids are said to be connected to investigations into a public meeting organised days before caste-related violence erupted at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat called the raids “a brazen attack on democratic rights”. “We are demanding that all the cases against these people be withdrawn and they be released forthwith,” he said, according to ANI.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation said the developments were “reminiscent of the infamous Emergency” of the 1975. The party said the arrests and raids are an attempt to brand all dissenting voices as “anti-national” as Lok Sabha elections come closer, PTI reported.
“The attempt to project the peaceful Bhima-Koregaon event as an act of terrorism is utterly baseless and condemnable,” the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj K Jha said human rights activists were being brutally attacked under the garb of an investigation into the Bhima Koregaon violence. “First you attempted brutalising the memory of Dalits and now threats/arrests of activists. Isn’t it time to bid farewell to democracy?” he wrote on Twitter.
Writer and activist Arundhati Roy said it is as close to a declaration of an Emergency as we will ever get, and that anybody who speaks up for justice or against Hindu majoritarianism is being made into a criminal.
Historian Ramachandra Guha called the raids “absolutely chilling” and said the “Supreme Court must intervene to stop this persecution and harassment” of independent voices. “Sudha Bharadwaj is as far from violence and illegality as Amit Shah is close to those things,” he wrote.
“Fascists fangs are now openly bared,” wrote lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan.