Nine rights activists were searched and five of them arrested on Tuesday over allegations of Maoist links after sweeping multi-city raids that have been described by many as ‘absolutely chilling’ and a ‘virtual declaration of emergency.’
The raids and arrests were by the Pune police, in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January, in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Marathas. Those arrested include Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Venon Gonsalves.
The raids were carried out in Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, Ranchi and Hyderabad.
Varavara Rao, activist and poet, was arrested in Hyderabad for his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Rao's name had cropped up in a letter seized by the police during searches on others arrested after the Elgar Parishad event on December 31 to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle in 1818.
Human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj was picked up from Faridabad and activists Arun Fereira and Venon Gonsalves were arrested from Thane and Mumbai respectively. Gautam Navlakha's transit remand to Pune is on hold, the Delhi High Court said. He will stay at home under police guard and can meet only his lawyers.
Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Kranti from Telangana were also raided. Anand Teltumbde's Goa home also featured on the list, but the activist wasn't at home. Laptops, pen drives and documents have been seized for analysis.
Author-activist Arundhati Roy has condemned the raids on the “homes of lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals” and said, “They should raid those who make up lynch mobs and murder people in broad daylight.”
“It tells us very clearly where India is headed. Murderers will be honoured and celebrated. Anybody who speaks up for justice or against Hindu majoritarianism is being made into a criminal. What is happening is absolutely perilous," she said
“It is in preparation for the coming elections. We cannot allow this to happen. We have to all come together. Otherwise we will lose every freedom that we cherish. It is as close to a declaration of an Emergency as we are going to get,” the celebrated author warned.
JNU student leader Shehla Rashid alleged the raids were an attempt to “instil fear among those are vocal about issues.” Her fellow activist Umar Khalid said, “Ahead of 2019 elections, a sense of fictitious enemy is being conjured.”
The five people -- Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Shoma Sen -- arrested in June had allegedly made ‘provocative’ speeches at the event, triggering violence at Koregaon Bhima village. The homes of activists were raided today based on interrogation of these five.
Members of the Dalit community from all over Maharashtra had gathered in Koregaon Bhima, near Pune, to celebrate what they call their victory over Maratha Peshwas. This year was the 200th anniversary of ‘Vijay Diwas’ that attracted a three lakh-strong crowd.
Dalit thinkers and activists consider it as a victory of the oppressed over the upper-caste establishment of the Marathas. Dalit leader and Gujarat lawmaker Jignesh Mewani had attended the event.
However, 'Right wing' groups had reportedly opposed the Dalit celebrations saying they cannot observe a 'British' victory. Clashes between 'right-wing' groups and Dalits who had congregated there turned violent.
The violence spread to Mumbai and other cities in the next three days. One person died and several were injured in the violence. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had ordered a probe and warned that there is no place for casteist violence in Maharashtra which is a progressive state.
(With inputs from agencies)
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