The multi-city raids at the residences of several civil rights activists and Left intellectuals by the Maharashtra police and subsequent arrests over alleged Maoist links have triggered a massive outrage across the country.
Several prominent lawyers, academics, authors, human rights defenders and opposition leaders condemned the police action and termed it a 'virtual declaration of emergency' in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Amnesty International and several other groups, including People's Union for Civil Liberties, said that the arrests of the activists was a concerted attempt to silence voices of dissent and crush human rights interventions.
The Maharashtra police on Tuesday conducted raids at the residences of several activists and arrested them in connection with the Bhima Koregoan violence that broke out on January 1. The police arrested five noted activists, including Varvara Rao, Arun Pereira, Gautam Navlakha, Varnan Gonsalves and Sudha Bhardwaj, for their alleged Maoist links.
Reactions from noted authors and intellectuals on raids and arrests of activists
Author and historian Ramachandra Guha called the action "absolutely chilling" and demanded the Supreme Court's intervention 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," Guha tweeted, adding that if Mahatma Gandhi was alive, he would have defended her.
"In the run-up to elections, it is an attempted coup against the Indian Constitution and all the freedoms that we cherish," said another noted author and activists Arundhati Roy.
Roy said that it was as close to the declaration of an emergency as it can get. Another activist Kavita Krishnan also described the action as "undeclared emergency".
JNU student leader Shehla Rashid alleged it was an attempt to "instil fear among those who are vocal about issues" and "to manufacture a narrative and a sense of false enemy to misguide people ahead of the 2019 elections".
(With inputs from agencies)