The retired officials have called the sudden arrests of five activists as the “most brazen display of coercive authority by the state yet”.   

New Delhi: Forty-eight retired civil servants have penned an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condemning the arrest of prominent human rights activists by the Pune Police on the premise that they instigated the Bhima-Koregaon violence and are alleged to be Maoist supporters.

However, this isn’t the first time that this group of retired IAS officers has spoken against the Modi government.


Also read: Bhima-Koregaon arrests, Rafale row, note ban have one common problem: BJP’s execution


In April, they wrote another open letter to PM Modi, in which they criticised him for only breaking his silence on the Kathua and Unnao rapes “when public outrage both in India and internationally reached a point when you could no longer ignore it”.

Arresting dissent 

The retired officials have called the sudden arrests of five activists and lawyers as the “most brazen display of coercive authority by the state yet”, in an attempt to “intimidate and silence any signs of dissent and democratic resistance”.

On 28 August, the Pune Police carried out simultaneous nationwide raids, arresting lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi.

In response, protests were organised across the country, and the National Human Rights Commission also issued a notice to the Maharashtra government over the police action. The government, however, stood by these arrests, claiming that it possessed “proof” about the activists’ “links with the Naxal movement”.

The retired officials said they see these arrests as the government’s use of draconian laws, which “allows the flimsiest of evidence to frame charges and arrest those who are politically inconvenient and may threaten powerful commercial interests complicit with the state”.

“It is evident that these arrests follow a pattern designed by the current dispensation to tag any dissident or critical intellectual activity as anti-national or seditious or supportive of secession and terrorism,” they have written.

The arrests, however, are just the trigger; the officers say their concerns about “the rise in authoritarian and majoritarian tendencies” of the Modi government have been growing for some time now.

The letter calls the state’s actions hypocritical and unjustified, stating that it is ironic that “a ‘Maoist sympathiser’ is treated as a dangerous terrorist who needs to be incarcerated, (while) a sympathiser of Bajrang Dal or Sanatan Sansthan or Hindu Mahasabha, who flaunts the agenda of violence and hate, is seen as pursuing a worthwhile national cause”.

The letter adds that the activists and lawyers who have been arrested hold an exemplary record, and have “always used lawful and democratic means in their efforts”. This action, therefore, is “a deliberate official falsehood foisted to damage their reputations, and is truly bizarre and Kafkaesque”.

Protect the Constitution

Their earlier letter, pertaining to the rapes in Unnao and Kathua, was also a pleading call to action, in which the officers urged Modi to address the “agenda of division and hate”, which has been “insidiously introduced into the grammar of our politics, our social and cultural life and even our daily discourse”.

“In both cases, Prime Minister, it is your party which is in power,” the letter had said, adding that “given your supremacy within the party and the centralised control you and your party president exercise, you more than anyone else have to be held responsible for this terrifying state of affairs”.


Also read: Professors, poet, lawyers: The 10 ‘Maoists’ arrested for Bhima-Koregaon violence


Even now, the officers only want Modi to take action. The officers have written that despite the justification that law and order is a state subject, “we know that you have the political authority to give suitable directions to a BJP chief minister to withdraw the cases”, adding, “It is time that your party and your government show their determination to stand by and protect our Constitution.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist,Barnala(Punjab)

    IAS Officers group has very rightly expressed its deep concern and worry over unfortunate and condemnable act of Pune Police to conduct raids and then arrest five human rights activists- Mrs Sudha Bhardwaj, Mr. Varavara Rao, Mr.Gautam Navlakha,Mr.Vernon
    Gonsalves and Mr.Arun Ferreira !

    It is noteworthy that this officers group has been expressing its deep concern over acts of omission and commission here and there as well as vital,sensitive and burning issues of national importance !

    Ironically, those at the helm are turning a deaf ear and blind eye to the genuine and healthy criticism ! The polity is not at all concerned to pay any heed to any objective, fair and prudent feed back, it may flow from any quarter !

    Evidently Pune Police ‘s raids and subsequently arrests of five human rights activists in different parts of the country speak volumes of the sinister designs of the polity to hush up and scare dissent ! It is an attempt to gag the voice of the intellectuals-academia ! In others words, it is a scathing attack on the freedom of expression and at the same time press too !

    Will the polity ever learn from the past experiences and blunders in the best national interests or not ? Will it go on repeating the blunders blindly and for how long? The negative and awe inspiring measures will not lead the polity anywhere !

    Sooner or later, following positive and constructive pursuits objectively will pave way towards progress and prosperity ! Intelligence,
    talent and calibre will not fall a prey to scaring and coercive methods ! They can be won over with affection and respect only !

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala(Punjab)

  2. सोए हुए तो जगा सकते है , लेकिन जागते हुए को जगाना कैसे ? PM is fully aware of what Retd I A S officers have mentioned.He is either helpless or has given some implied consent.

  3. we can defeat an outsider but it is difficult to defeat traitors within if these so called human rightists r innocent why raise controversy wait for the courts decisions no they adopt publicity stunts and just oppose establishment for instance what these aware people know about kathua rape why so concern more r non Muslim rape victims less important these incidents r outcome of sick mental society and accused be hanged but some self styled groups like award wapsi gangs and those who have lost looted money and favours from their favorite chamcha parties r frustrated they must be condemned and condemned for siding with antinational lobby and ISI

  4. These 48 IAS officers are bold now and have condemned the arrest of prominent human rights activists by the Pune Police on the premise that they instigated the Bhima-Koregaon violence and are alleged to be Maoist supporters but are keeping quiet when innocent people children, police and armed forces are killed by Terrorists, Naxalites and Maoists. Is it not hypocrisy? When they were in the service were they simply following the ruling party’s dictum and now after retirement they start letters to the Government. What an irony!

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