Nine members of the European Parliament on Friday urged the European Commission, a body that manages the day-to-day business of the European Union, to cancel all agreements with New Delhi until India releases arrested human rights activists and stops the “hunt” against marginalised communities and minorities.

In a letter to the European Union’s top foreign policy diplomat, the MPs condemned the police action on 10 activists in several cities of India on August 28. They noted that five of the activists had been arrested arbitrarily and were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – “one of the most barbaric laws, copied from the colonial law book”.

The statement was signed by members of the European Parliament Lídia Senra, Ángela Vallina, Paloma López, Merja Killonen, Ana Gomes, Clara Aguilera, Ciprian Tanasescu, Claude Moraes and Julie Ward. It was addressed to Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The MPs asked how the European Commission could have “contacts and agreements” with a government that “defends that there are first- and second-class humans, indiscriminately kills Adivasis, Dalits and religious minorities, and imprisons human rights activists”.

They said the arrests amount to “a very serious attack on the already crumbling state of democracy in India”, and also demanded the release of five other activists arrested in June.

On August 28, the Pune Police had raided the homes of 10 human rights activists across the country and arrested five of them – Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj. The following day, India’s Supreme Court ordered that they be placed under house arrest till the next hearing. They continue to be under house arrest.

The police have claimed that the activists were in the process of fomenting large-scale violence and destruction of property, which would have resulted in chaos. The police said this was part of the agenda of the banned outfit Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The activists have been accused of involvement in an event organised in Pune on December 31, which was followed by caste-related violence at a nearby village the next day. The police have said the activists’ speeches at the event were meant to incite hatred.