New Delhi: The arrest of five Left-wing activists by Pune Police during nationwide raids on Tuesday over suspected Maoist links was challenged in the Supreme Court today. Lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the top court the matter needs an urgent hearing. Also Read - Supreme Court Sets up National Task Force to Streamline Oxygen Allocation Across Country

Eminent activists and lawyers, including Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande, Maya Darnall and one other person moved the top court against the arrest of Left-wing activists. Also Read - Central Vista Project: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Halting Construction Work, Asks High Court to Pass Order

The petition against the arrest of the activists was mentioned before a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra which agreed to give an urgent hearing today itself. Also Read - Centre Has To Supply 700 Metric Tonnes Of Oxygen To Delhi Everyday Till Further Orders, Says Supreme Court

Senior lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan is also expected to file a petition against the arrests and raids by the police in the top court today.

Three of the five arrested activists — Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira — are likely to be produced in a Pune court today. They were brought to the city late last night after being arrested in different cities on Tuesday.

The police, after carrying out near simultaneous searches, arrested Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi.

The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalits and the upper caste Peshwas at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year.

Security officials said two letters recovered over the past few months, indicating Maoist plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, were also a reason for the raids.

Prashant Bhushan, along with other activists and lawyers, condemned the nationwide crackdown by the police, terming it a “clear declaration of emergency”.

“Fascist fangs are now openly bared,” tweeted lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

“It is a clear declaration of emergency. They are going after anyone who has spoken against the government on rights issues. They are against any dissent,” Bhushan said.

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau protested against the raids and arrests of left-wing activists, calling it a “brazen attack on democratic rights and civil liberties”.

It also alleged that the Maharashtra Police and central agencies have been targeting Dalit rights activists and lawyers who have been taking up their cases, following the Bhima-Koregaon violence.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi targeted the Modi government and RSS over the nationwide raids and arrests of human rights activists and lawyers, saying that there is place for only “one NGO” in “new India” which is called the RSS.

“There is only place for one NGO in India and it’s called the RSS. Shut down all other NGOs. Jail all activists and shoot those that complain. Welcome to the new India,” he tweeted.

Second Crackdown in Three Months

Officials described Tuesday’s operations as a follow-up to similar action taken on April 17 when the Pune Police swooped on over half a dozen Dalit activists and those involved with the Kabir Kala Manch, which organised an Elgar Conference in Pune on December 31.

The next day, on January 1, caste riots erupted in Koregaon-Bhima which left one person dead, culminating in a Maharashtra shutdown on January 3 called by the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh of Prakash Ambedkar.

After nearly five months, Pune Police teams fanned out in around half a dozen states and raided the homes and offices of several persons who are suspected to be linked with the Elgar Conference or are considered as Maoist supporters.

The police have seized items like computers, laptops, CDs, pen-drives, ‘incriminating documents’ and books from them and contended that they functioned like an ‘urban think tank’ for Maoists.

Previously, during the April action, the Pune police had targeted rights activists like Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale (all arrested) besides raiding Harshali Potdar, Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaychor and Sagar Gorke.

Those arrested were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code.