Maharashtra police on Tuesday raided the homes of multiple left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least four of them for suspected Maoist links. The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event on 31 December last year.
Residences of poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi were raided.
The five activists have been charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. According to police sources quoted by NDTV in its report on the issue, the activists were allegedly "hatching a big controversy”. They are alleged to have made "provocative" speeches before the Bhima-Koregaon event.
According to the Times of India, the arrests were made after two letters, allegedly exchanged by Maoist leaders, indicated plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The letters, the report says, were recovered after the anti-Naxal operations in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli. One of the two letters, written in 2017, talks about "senior comrades" suggesting "concrete steps" to end the NDA’s rule.
According to the police, the activities of these activists were monitored by concerned agencies for a week before their arrest late on Tuesday.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has come out in support of the activists.
Marxist historian Romila Thapar, along with few other left-leaning activists, has moved the Supreme Court against the arrest. Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi mentioned the petition in the court today.
The court will hear the matter at 2:15 pm.
The activists have also received support from controversial left-wing author and activist Arundhati Roy, who has called the move an attack on those speaking up for justice against “Hindu majoritarianism”.
Rao, one of the five activists, was arrested in 2005 by Andhra Pradesh police, according to this BBC report. Interestingly, the state back then had a Congress party government headed by Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Rao was arrested for allegedly supporting the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), the report says.
In July 2018, Republic TV reported that Bharadwaj, a trade unionist, had allegedly written a letter to one Comrade Prakash about a meeting that took place in March 2017 in Nagpur. According to the channel, the meeting Bharadwaj mentioned in the letter was attended by Comrade Surendra Gadling and Comrade Shoma Sen, later arrested by Pune police in the Bhima-Koregaon case. The channel also says that the letter exposes the link between Maoists and Kashmiri separatists.
In 2011, Navalkha was detained at Srinagar Airport. Back then, the government of Jammu and Kashmir had said that "his presence could disturb peace and order in the Valley." After the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani by the security forces in 2016, he had written an article allegedly sympathetic to the militants. In the article, Navalkha had addressed the terrorists as “Burhan Wani and his comrades”.
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