India’s Supreme Court criticises police for arresting activists


India’s Supreme Court has asked the Indian government to explain the arrests of five prominent activists in connection with caste violence that took place earlier this year.

The high-profile arrests triggered outrage and protests across India on Wednesday.

 Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If you don’t allow the safety valve, the pressure cooker will burst,” Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, who is among the three judges hearing the case at the Supreme Court, observed.

The arrested human rights activists received a reprieve from the top court, which directed that they be held under house arrest instead of police custody.

On Tuesday, searches were carried out at the homes of poet Varavara Rao in the southern city of Hyderabad; activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Maharashtra, trade union campaigner and law professor Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad; and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi. Subsequently these five were arrested.


Police said the activists had spurred Dalits in the face of a pride event at Bhima Koregaon in January that spilled over into weeks of violence and protests across Maharashtra state.

Dalits, at the lowest rung of the Hindu caste system, have suffered thousands of years of exclusion and extreme poverty.

On Wednesday, protests were held across India by 37 civil rights groups and enraged Indians protested on social media even as activists warned of a further crackdown on those defending human rights in the country.

The police are also probing the alleged connection of those arrested to Maoist rebels who have been involved in an armed struggle for decades against Indian security forces.

Maoist rebels, also known as Naxals, claim to fight across states in central and eastern India, for the rights of tribals, poor farmers and landless labourers.

On Twitter, Indians shared their outrage and trended #MeTooUrbanNaxal.

The police had also arrested five Dalit activists in June this year in connection with the same case.




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