Supreme Court order on rights activists appropriate: Hansraj Ahir

Hyderabad/Nagpur: Union minister Hansraj Ahir welcomed Friday the Supreme Court’s decision not to interfere with the arrest of five rights activists by the Maharashtra Police, saying it was appropriate and vindicated the action of police. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in a 2:1 verdict, refused Friday the plea seeking the immediate release of the activists and declined to appoint a SIT to probe their arrest.

The Maharashtra Police had arrested the activists on August 28 in connection with an FIR lodged following a conclave — ‘Elgaar Parishad’ — held on December 31 last year that had allegedly triggered violence later at Koregaon-Bhima village in the state.

Ahir, the minister of state for Home, speaking to reporters in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur said, “We welcome the SC verdict today even we were of the opinion that the police’s action against the activists in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima case was appropriate.” “Investigation went on upto six months. After that some evidence surfaced that these people, while staying in cities, were instigating people…there was also proof and action was taken,” the minister told PTI.

This was proved by the Supreme Court verdict Friday and it was clear the police investigation was on the right track, Ahir said, adding the court has accepted the position of the Maharashtra Police.

The minister said naxalism was “coming to an end” in rural areas. But Naxals had infiltrated the tribal population and may have been attempting to spread Maoist ideology in urban areas with the help of some people. Their designs had not succeeded, he said. “Naxalism is a threat to democracy. We have to save the country. The Maharashtra Police has done the right thing,” he said. He said it was the government’s responsibility to protect democracy in addition to national security.

The five activists — Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha — were put under house arrest on August 29 following an apex court order on the plea by historian Romila Thapar, economists Prabhat Patnaik and Devaki Jain, sociology professor Satish Deshpande and human rights lawyer Maja Daruwala against the police action.

The court said Friday the accused will remain in house arrest for four more weeks during which they are at liberty to avail legal remedies in appropriate court which can consider the case on merits.

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