On 28 August 2018, police across the country raided the homes of prominent human rights advocates and activists, saying these people were responsible for instigating the violence in Bhima-Koregaon in January 2018.
At least five of them – advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer and author Arun Ferreira, revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, as well as activists Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves – were taken into custody.
According to the search panchnamas prepared by the Pune Police (who orchestrated the police action), these activists are all being investigated for offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA), a draconian anti-terror legislation that was used to arrest five prominent Dalit rights activists in June this year for their alleged role in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, and links to Naxal groups.
But what exactly is the UAPA? Why are human rights activists being charged under it? And what is the significance of using this law against them?