India: Police charge pro-Dalit activists under anti-terrorism laws
6 September 2018
With the aim of muzzling opposition to India’s Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and its noxious Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) ideology, Maharashtra state police raided and conducted warrantless searches of the homes of seven left-wing activists on August 28 in six different cities across the country. The seven are all prominent advocates for the rights of Dalits (the former “untouchables”) and Adivasi (India’s tribal peoples).
The raids come amid mounting struggles against social inequality, cheap-labor jobs, and environmental devastation, and growing apprehension in government circles that the BJP could suffer a major reversal in the national elections slated for April/May 2019.
The police arrested 5 of the 7 targeted persons under the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2012 (UAPA), “anti-terrorist” legislation that in numerous ways trammels the due-process rights of the accused. On an order of India’s Supreme Court, the five are being held under house arrest pending a hearing on the legality of their arrests.
The raids and arrests have provoked a national outcry, which has been joined by the bourgeois opposition, including the Congress Party, and other pillars of the establishment. The former Chief Justice of the Indian Supreme Court R. M. Lodha has characterized the arrests as “an attack on freedom of speech” and as “an act to undermine the fundamentals of constitutional democracy”.
The police have labelled the five “Urban Maoists”—a term routinely used by officials to criminalize left-wing dissent and justify its violent repression. (For decades, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and its…