Nationwide swoop on Maoist sympathisers; 5 held

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 29 Aug 2018 08:19:51


Police arrest (L) poet and Naxal ideologue Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, (C) trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and (R) activist Arun Ferreira in Mumbai on Tuesday


The raids took place at 10 places in Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Haryana

MAHARASHTRA police on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several States and arrested at least five of them for suspected Maoist links, sparking protests from human rights activists. The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence at Bhima Koregaon village, which was triggered by an event called ‘Elgar Parishad’ held in Pune on December 31 last year.

Near simultaneous searches were carried out at the residences of prominent Telugu poet and Naxal ideologue Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi, a senior police official said.

Subsequently, Rao, Bhardwaj, Ferreira, Gonzalves and Navalakha were arrested under IPC Section 153 (A), which relates to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, said the official.

Some other sections of the IPC were also pressed against those arrested, along with Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their “alleged Naxal activities,” said the police official. The premises of Father Stan Swamy, a tribal leader in Jharkhand, too were searched but he was not detained.
In New Delhi, soon after Navalakha’s arrest, the Delhi High Court ordered police not to take him out of the national capital at least until Wednesday. The High Court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Navalakha by his advocate Warisha Farasat after he was picked up from his Delhi home in the afternoon by the Maharashtra police.

Similarly, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday stayed the transit remand of activist Sudha Bhardwaj.
According to unconfirmed reports, others whose residences were raided are Susan Abraham, Kranthi Tekula and Anand Teltumbde in Goa.

Bhima-Koregaon occupies a central place in Dalit history — it witnessed a major battle in which the Peshwa rulers were defeated on January 1, 1818 by the British army, comprising a large number of Dalit soldiers. Every year, the anniversary of the battle is marked by thousands of Dalits assembling in Pune and marching to a war memorial. Police say, the speeches made at the conclave on December 31, a day before the 200th anniversary of the battle, were one of the triggers for the violence.

Tuesday’s events mirrored simultaneous raids conducted in June when five activists were arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
“While arresting them, we had seized some documents, and while scrutinising these documents the connection of these five people surfaced,” said the police official. “Their exact role in the case is part of the investigation.”

Rao’s name had figured in a letter which the Pune police claimed to have seized during searches at the premises of one of the five people arrested in June in connection with the Elgar Parishad. The five were accused of having close Maoist links, according to an FIR registered at the Vishrambaug Police Station after the event.
Rao was arrested from his residence at Gandhi Nagar in Hyderabad by a Pune police team, which earlier searched the residences of his two daughters.

“Pune police sought our assistance. We have provided them with local force to assist in conducting searches and making the arrest. He (Rao) ... will be produced in a court and taken to Pune on transit warrant,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central Zone) Viswa Prasad said.

In June, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale was arrested from his home in Mumbai, while lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen were picked up from Nagpur and Rona Wilson was arrested from his flat in Munirka in Delhi in simultaneous raids. “During our investigation in connection with the Elgar Parishad event, some evidence came to light about members of a proscribed organisation, following which the police carried out raids in Chhattisgarh, Mumbai and Hyderabad,” the police official said.

Searches were conducted at homes of people having Maoist links and those directly or indirectly connected with the five arrested people, the official said. “We are also checking the financial transactions of these people, their modes of communication and also trying to gather technical evidence,” the police official said. The CPI(M) politburo protested the searches and arrests and demanded immediate release of the activists.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the police and Central agencies had been targeting Dalit rights activists. “Ever since the Bhima-Koregaon violence against Dalits, the Maharashtra Police along with Central agencies have been targeting Dalit rights activists and lawyers who have been taking up their cases. This is a brazen attack on
democratic rights and civil liberties,” he said.
Noted historian Ramachandra Guha called the action “absolutely chilling” and demanded the intervention of the Supreme Court to stop this “persecution and harassment” of independent voices.