Mumbai: Maharashtra police on Friday claimed that the arrests of five noted rights activists – Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj and Gautam Navlakha –  in connection with the investigations into the Bhima Koregaon violence was the outcome of the evidences that established that they had links with the Maoists. The police also asserted that the ‘accused were helping Maoists organisations in a big conspiracy’.

Addressing a press conference over the issue, Param Bir Singh, ADG, Maharashtra Police said, “When we were confident that clear links have been established then only we moved to take action against these people, in different cities. Evidence clearly establishes their roles with Maoists.”

He also informed that a case was registered on January 8 about an incident of December 31, 2017 where hate speeches were delivered. He revealed that during the investigations it was found that almost all the accused were associated with Kabir Kala Manch.

Further, he added that the probe revealed that a big conspiracy was being plotted by Maoist organisations. “The accused were helping them to take their goals forward,” he said while claiming that a terrorist organisation was also involved. “On 17 May, sections under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were imposed,” Singh said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Supreme Court halted Pune Police’s bid for immediate custody of the five noted rights activists who were arrested on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the apex court has ordered they be kept under house arrest till September 6.

“Dissent is the ‘safety valve of democracy’. If you don’t allow these safety valves, it will burst,” observed the Supreme Court.

While granting relief to the activists by ordering that they will be under house arrest at their homes till the next day of hearing on September 6, the top court did not consider for now the vehement opposition of the Maharashtra government challenging the locus of them seeking relief on their behalf, and calling them “strangers”.

Pune police raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested five of them — poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and Chhattisgarh and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi. The raids were carried out as part of a probe into a conclave — Elgar Parishad — held in Koregaon-Bhima near Pune on December 31 last year, which had allegedly triggered violence the next day.