It is customary of governments to use a set of vocabulary to demonize those whom it disapproves and then attack them.
'Urban Maoists' is one such coinage from government and the pro-government media, to name people who raise voices of dissent and pose questions. It is an epithet used to describe the educated, professional and generally urban section who protest at human rights violations and government atrocities. Thus, five prominent people, well known as human rights activists and academicians whom the ruling class brand as urban Maoists, were arrested from different parts of India by Pune police on Tuesday.
One of them is Sudha Bharadwaj well-known as one works based in Chhattisgarh as a lawyer, trade union worker and leader of People's Union for Civil Liberties. Born in America and having completed her education in IIT Kanpur, Sudha left her rich background and dedicated the rest of her life for the poor. Another of the five is Marxist writer and poet Varavara Rao from Telengana. Arun Ferreira, yet another of the arrested, is a human rights champion and based in Mumbai. One who had been subjected to government action and rounded up several times, he was arrested several times, but was acquitted in all such cases. Gautam Navlakha, another of the arrested is a reputed journalist. The five arrested also include Vernon Gonsalves, an active presence in various agitations for protection of human rights. Pune police swooped down on them from different cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Goa and Mumbai. All the arrests were on cases connected with the Dalit-upper caste clashes in Bhima-Koreagaon in Maharashtra. Another five people related to the same case, including Rona Wilson from Kerala, had been arrested earlier on 6 June by Pune police.
It is a rare action for a state government to conduct country-wide raids and arrest people having political disagreements with the ruling class. The celebration of reviving memories of the struggle led by Dalits against Brahman emperor Peshwa, is an event held in January every year in Bhima-Koregaon. In the contemporary background of increasing attacks against Dalits, this time the event was held with greater popular participation. Naturally, it caused headache for the Sangh parivar leadership and the BJP-led Maharashtra government. That was how extremist Hindutva organizations came out with the declaration that they will block the programme of this year. The confrontation was led by the organization Shiv Pratishtan Hindustan led by Hindutva spokesman Sambhaji Bhide. But the Maharashtra government was not prepared to take any action against this outfit. It is a fact that the stance of the Dalit workers, who proceeded with the commemoration ceremony ignoring the threats of savarna bodies, did anger the sangh parivar. The latest mass arrests may have to be seen as a revenge against that.
All over the country, agitations for rights by helpless people are gaining strength, overcoming all government crackdown and media black out. Numerous activists are playing a major role in integrating such struggles, making big sacrifices for the cause. Such human collectives exist in all states and major cities. It is their message of solidarity that gives hope for humanity. Although not with well-organized bodies, they are all inter-connected through a concord of ideas. The target of the arrests will be to destroy those connections and to crush such initiatives through intimidation. Those behind this crackdown are ones who dream about a country filled with servile subjects. Simply put, what is happening now is an onslaught against democracy. The country is moving in the direction of emergency. The only way out is not to succumb to fear and stand up for democracy with a firm voice.