On January 18, 2020, Indian police reportedly detained Osmania University professor Chintakindi Kaseem on alleged links to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
CPI-Maoist was established in 2004 as a merger of several groups with ideologies aligned with the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, with the goal of promoting the rights of poor and otherwise marginalized communities. After its founding, the group reportedly began arming itself; its members have been accused of involvement in several major attacks on elected officials and civilians. India’s Ministry of Home Affairs banned the CPI-Maoist party in June 2009, labeling it a terrorist organization. Police have accused scholars and activists of having Maoist links in apparent retaliation for their activism and expression. For example, on September 10, 2019, police searched the home of Delhi University professor Hany Babu for his advocacy on behalf of Dr. G.N. Saibaba, a scholar imprisoned since 2014 for his own alleged Maoist links (see report).
Kaseem is a human rights activist, editor of Nadustunna Telangana magazine, and the secretary of the Revolutionary Writers Association. Police accused Kaseem of being a Maoist and reportedly took a confession from him after they searched a car belonging to another alleged Maoist involved in a 2016 accident, and turned up documents showing communications between Kaseem and Maoist leaders.
Nearly four years later, on January 18, 2020, police officers in plain clothes reportedly searched Kaseem’s house and seized his phone, laptop, and dozens of books and documents, without providing a warrant. Police then arrested Kaseem under the Unlawful Activities Act for alleged Maoist links and brought him to the Mulugu police station. Police allege Kaseem was working to grow the Maoist party and ideology and was in contact with Maoist leaders.
On January 19, a high court in Telangana ordered the police and government to submit evidence by January 24 to support their claim that Kaseem has Maoist links. During the hearing, Kaseem reportedly disputed his confession from 2016, alleging that police wrote the confession and forced his signature. Kaseem was then transferred to the Sangareddy prison.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the warrantless raid of a scholar’s home, confiscation of his property, and his arrest and prosecution, in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is party. States have an obligation not to interfere with the rights to free expression and association, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.