Condemning the arrests of prominent revolutionary Telugu poet Varavara Rao, civil rights activists Vernon Gonzalves, Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navalakha, and trade union leader Sudha Bhardwaj, by the Pune police in coordinated raids conducted in different cities on Tuesday, activists of several progressive and democratic organisations symbolically blocked the main road outside the district administration complex for fifteen minutes and staged a demonstration here on Wednesday.
They termed the crackdown as an attack on the Constitution and on democracy, saying the country was in a state of undeclared emergency imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the behest of larger right-wing forces led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“The killings of rationalists, writers, scholars and journalists; increasing attacks on minorities and Dalits; burning of the Indian Constitution right outside the Parliament; and now the arrests of writers, civil rights activists and trade unionists... We are in an undeclared emergency imposed by Modi. It is a part of the larger design of undermining the democracy, replacing the Constitution with Manusmriti and creating a fascist State,” Vittal Doddamani, a Dalit leader said during the agitation.
Prabhulinga Mahagaonkar, leader, Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha, squarely held the Prime Minister responsible for the crackdown. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who acts as a puppet of right-wing forces led by RSS, is creating chaos and anarchy in the country. Modi speaks on everything under the sun, but never opens his mouth when his own followers unleash attacks on academicians, writers and journalists. Now, he is using State machinery to curb dissent and suppress social movements,” he said.
K. Neela, State vice-president, Janwadi Mahila Sanghatana, said the arrests were part of well-planned conspiracy to divert public attention from BJP’s failure in delivering on its 2014 promises such as bringing back Indian black money from abroad and distributing it among citizens; creating two crore jobs every year; and also from the investigations into the murder cases of Govinda Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh in which investigating agencies have substantially proved the involvement of Sangh Pariwar outfits such as Sanatana Sanstha and Sri Ram Sene.
“The Modi government’s failures and the involvement of Sangh Parivar outfits in the murders of rationalists, scholars and journalists have created a sense of fear of losing 2019 Lok Sabha elections among the BJP. In its desperate bid to divert public attention from its administrative failures and its involvement in all these killings, the party is resorting to fascist measures of arresting progressive thinkers, writers, academicians, rights activists and journalists labelling them as Maoist sympathisers,” she said.
A memorandum with a list of demands, including the immediate release of the arrested activists and the withdrawal of false cases against them, was submitted to the office of Deputy Commissioner.