Activists’ house arrest to continue for four weeks more: SC

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The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the arguments that the five rights activists, in the Bhima Koregaon case, were arrested for their dissenting views and they will remain under house arrest for four more four weeks.

The apex court said there is prima facie material to show that the activists have links to a banned Maoist group. The four activists, lawyer and trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj, Telugu poet P Varavara Rao, activist Gautam Navlakha, and lawyers Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, were arrested by the Maharashtra police in country-wide raids on August 28.

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The Supreme Court, while hearing a petition filed by historian Romila Thapar and others, on August 29 ordered the activists be kept under house arrest. Moreover, the court told Maharashtra government that there should be a clear-cut distinction between opposition and dissent on one hand and attempts to create disturbance, law and order problems or overthrow the government on the other.

The activists were arrested because evidence linked them with the banned CPI (Maoist) group, and not because of their dissenting views.

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Bhardwaj is under police guard at her home in Delhi, Rao in Hyderabad, Navlakha in Delhi, Ferreira in Mumbai and Gonsalves in the same city.

Maharashtra Police have said the arrests were part of their probe into an event called Elgar Parishad in Pune on December 31, 2017, when activists and Dalit organisations came together. On January 1, violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon, about 40 km from Pune, as tens of thousands of Dalits celebrated the 200th anniversary of an 1818 war between the British army, manned mainly by Dalits, and the state’s Peshwa rulers.

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