On 28 August, the Pune Police raided the homes of nine prominent human-rights activists and intellectuals across the country. These included the trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, the journalist and activist Gautam Navlakha, the lawyers and activists Vernon Gonsalvez and Arun Ferreira, the lawyer Susan Abraham, the Maoist ideologue and writer Varavara Rao, the writer and professor Anand Teltumbde, the journalist Kranthi Tekula, and the Jesuit priest and Adivasi-rights activist Stan Swamy. Five of them were also arrested through the course of the day
, and booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which disallows bail. They are currently under house arrest
, following a Supreme Court intervention.
On 28 August, the Pune Police arrested five activists—the trade-unionist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, the writers Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, the lawyers Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalvez—and conducted search raids at the homes of several others. The police have offered different explanations for the arrests—including a purported connection to the violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon in early January, an “anti-fascist plot” to overthrow the government, and reportedly, yet another plot
to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During his reign as chief minister of Gujarat, in his campaign ahead of the 2014 general elections, and while serving as the country’s prime minister, Modi has survived several reported plots and attempts to kill him.
When Chinthu Pradeep and his brother Chandu, both fishermen working in the Azheekal port of Karunagappally, a municipality in Kerala’s Kollam city, left to rescue those stranded in the floods that swept the state, they were prepared to incur the resulting losses. “We would have made Rs 10,000–12,000,” Chandu told me. “This is the time when we have a lot of work. At the end of this month, work will reduce.” But as Kerala’s flood waters recede and its survivors begin the struggle to resume their daily lives, the ugly political violence of the state appears to be one of the first things returning to the fore. When the brothers left for the rescue operations, they expected to make up for the lost time at the sea upon their return. But on the evening of 25 August, in an incident that has since gained media attention in the state, Chinthu was attacked with swords by activists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. With grave wounds on both hands, his future now appears bleak.
Late in the afternoon today, civil-society organisations such as the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression held a press conference at the Press Club of India in Delhi. Among the speakers were the Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, the activists Aruna Roy and Bezwada Wilson, the lawyer Prashant Bhushan and the writer Arundhati Roy. The speakers had gathered to discuss the recent arrests of five activists—the trade-unionist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, the writers Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, the lawyers Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalvez—by the Pune Police, which they claimed was in connection to the caste-based violence that took place in Bhima Koregaon in January, and a public meeting that was held the previous day. The police later said
that the arrested activists were involved in a plot to overthrow the government. On the day of the arrests, the police also conducted raids at the homes of various activists, writers and intellectuals, in Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi, Hyderabad and Goa, including the writer Anand Teltumbde, the journalist Kranthi Tekula, and the Jesuit priest and activist Stan Swamy.
On 10 August, The Caravan published an article
detailing how the BJP’s national president Amit Shah mortgaged two of his properties to enable his son Jay Shah’s firm Kusum Finserve LLP to obtain credit facilities from a cooperative bank. The BJP president’s contingent liability with respect to this credit facility was, however, missing from his 2017 electoral affidavit. Kusum Finserve has recorded dramatic increase in credit facilities in recent years despite its poor finances. The same day, The Caravan shared the story on its verified Facebook page. As part of its effort to ensure that the news story reached the widest possible audience, The Caravan then put in a request to the social network to boost the story—a facility provided by Facebook to media organisations to help promote their posts among a specified audience. Over the past year, scores of similar requests have been placed by the company’s digital-marketing team. But this was the first instance in which its digital-marketing manager received a reply from Facebook stating that The Caravan’s post had not been boosted because it “doesn’t follow Facebook’s advertising policies.”
In the morning on 28 August, the Pune Police conducted raids at the houses of several activists, lawyers, and writers across the country, in Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi, Hyderabad and Goa. Those whose houses were raided include the trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, the writer and activist Gautam Navlakha, the activist and lawyer Vernon Gonsalvez, the human-rights activist Arun Ferreira, the advocate Susan Abraham, the Marxist intellectual and writer Varavara Rao, the writer Anand Teltumbde, the journalist Kranthi Tekula, and the Jesuit priest and activist Stan Swamy, several of whom were also arrested through the course of the day
. Some of the arrests have been made under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the police action is reportedly related
to the arrests made in June this year, in connection to the violence in Bhima Koregaon in January.
The controversy over electronic voting machines keeps being resurrected with predictable regularity. The latest hue and cry arose in May this year, after reports emerged of large-scale malfunctioning of the voter-verifiable paper audit trail machines during by-elections to four Lok Sabha and ten state assembly seats. The malfunctioning was so widespread that the Election Commission ordered re-polls in 73 booths of the Kairana parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh, 49 booths in the Maharashtra seat of Bhandara-Gondiya and one booth in the Nagaland Lok Sabha seat.
“The best ideas are born when minds are allowed to roam free and think critically,” M Jagadesh Kumar, the vice chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, in his inaugural address at the university’s convocation, held in early August after a gap of 46 years. “JNU is committed to this freedom of thought and critical thinking, with an emphasis on our fundamental responsibilities.” For many who have studied or taught at JNU, such platitudes would represent a cruel and bitter irony, given that they were said by a person who has left no stone unturned to destroy critical thinking and freedom of thought in the university in the last two years. A few moments after the vice chancellor delivered his address, Anoop Patel, a former student, refused to shake hands
with the VC while receiving his degree. Patel later said he was protesting the VC’s instrumental role in destroying JNU’s “inclusive, democratic, progressive and secular credentials.”
On 10 August, when Shanta Kumaran left her house in Chendamangalam village, in Paravur taluk of Kerala’s Ernakulam district, her home, like the other houses in the area, was yet to see the destruction of the catastrophic floods that would sweep the state over the next week. Two weeks later, as we stood outside her house, its floor now covered in sludge, she told me, “I left because my daughter was admitted to the hospital for delivery. Her operation was due on Monday.” She continued, “This is nothing. When I returned, the sludge reached above my ankles.” Shanta works as a domestic help in the locality, and her husband, Kumaran, was a fisherman till he stopped working two years ago. Kumaran said the water level rose suddenly on August 13. “I had to wade through the water till the end of this street where I requested an auto driver to take me to the hospital.” He pointed to a wall above a window to describe the level to which the water had risen, but he need not have—in the whole house, for around six feet from the ground, the mint green walls were a shade darker than its upper portions.
A 30-year-old who tried to apply for the post of a librarian with the Rajasthan government this July was shocked when the state’s information technology department asked for access to his Twitter, Facebook or Gmail accounts as a pre-condition for the application. If he did not wish to share his social media information, the government’s web portal for job applications—Rajasthan Single Sign On, or RSSO—said, he would have to provide both his Aadhaar number and the biometric data registered with the Unique Identification Authority of India.