On August 28, the Pune police mounted raids across several cities,taking into custody five civil liberties activists, invoking that dreaded anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). They were accused of inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon in January, and generally of aiding the banned Maoist party. The police’s swift operation—oiled by a section of the media that flashed dubious letters about a conspiracy, and a lower judiciary that speedily signed transfer remands—has received a jolt for now.
The run of events evoked a sense of déjà vu. Have we not seen a vicious trial by media every time an agency presented its latest arrests as operatives of whichever group was in the home ministry’s favour that season? Have we not seen courts signing blank cheques for investigators—be it extended remands or ignoring signs of custodial torture? The ever-expanding circle of suspects since January, the stubborn refusal by the police to book Hindu right groups involved in the Bhima Koregaon violence, the convenient recoveries of self-incriminating letters—all of it fits the template of arrests made under UAPA.