Demanding withdrawal of the cases against the ten activists arrested in June and August, they shot off an open letter saying it was "patently obvious" that the objective is to "create a climate of fear to deter" those who are "critical of the government's treatment" of Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised and dispossessed groups and may be inclined to take up cudgels on their behalf.
"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...The excuse for such action hinges on a fabricated tale of a 'terror' plot against a high functionary in which these allegedly 'urban Naxals' play a role," the former bureaucrats said.
"Ironically, while a 'Maoist sympathiser' is treated as a dangerous terrorist who needs to be incarcerated, 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," they said.
"Coming from a political culture where ministers and legislators who fete and celebrate murder convicts and perpetrators of mob violence are given political support and patronage, this perversion of principles is sickening," said the letter signed by former former Social Justice and Empowerment Secretary Anita Agnihotri, former Special Secretary in Cabinet Secretariat Vappala Balachandran and former BPRD Director General Meeran C Borwankar among others.
The group had earlier issued open letters on several issues of public interest.
Referring to the Elgar Parishad held in Pune and the subsequent case registered against the activists, they said the vagueness of the allegations, the manner and the timing of the arrests, the choice of the persons arrested (none of whom were a part of the Bhima Koregaon incident), the use of a law which has lower standards of evidence required for establishing a 'prima facie' case, "all go to show the insidiousness of the intent".