Indian Supreme Court orders house arrest for activists

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India's top court ordered Wednesday that five prominent rights activists arrested for alleged Maoist links be kept under house arrest instead of police custody until it rules next week on a petition challenging their detention.

Police, meanwhile, broke up a protest in southern India against the arrests and detained about two dozen people.

Attorney Prashant Bhushan said the court order will prevent police from taking the five to the western city of Pune, where authorities are investigating their alleged links to Maoist rebels in various parts of the country.

The Supreme Court also ordered the federal and state governments to provide detailed reasons for their arrests within three days. It set Sept. 6 for the next hearing in the case.

Those arrested on Tuesday were Telugu-language poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, and Gautam Navalakha and Sudha Bhardwaj in New Delhi and a neighbouring town.

Police accused the five of delivering speeches that triggered protests and violence between low-caste Dalits and right-wing groups near Pune in December.

The government says Maoist rebels, who are active in several states, are India's biggest internal security threat. The rebels, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting the government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for the poor and indigenous communities.

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