The Pune police on Tuesday conducted simultaneous raids at the residences of many writers, activists and advocates in Delhi, Hyderabad, Raipur, Mumbai, and Goa for their alleged Maoist links and role in Bhima-Koregaon violence last year.
After the raids, Delhi based civil rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj besides Mumbai-based activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai have been taken into police custody. Vara Vara Rao was also taken into custody from his house in Hyderabad. Other activists’ houses that were raided include Susan Abraham, Journalist Kranthi Tekula, Father Stan Swamy, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. A relative of Abraham said, “Susan and Arun have been defending the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence of January 2018.”
According to sources, the raids have been conducted in connection with an FIR registered on January 8, 2018, at Vishram Baug Police Station in Pune over “Elgar Parishad” that marked 200th-year celebration of ‘Dalit victory’ against the Peshwa army on December 31, 2018.
The FIR was registered under sections 153(A), 505 (1)(b), 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was eventually turned into a conspiracy case in March 2018 and several sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) were added to it.
According to reports, from 6 am onwards the Maharasthra police raided and searched father Stan Swamy's place in Ranchi. During the search operations, police reportedly confiscated several items like computers, laptop, CDs, papers and books. He is also learnt to have been quizzed about some organisations in Maharashtra.
The houses of activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha in Delhi was also raided besides activist Anand Teltumbde's house in Goa and writer and activist Vara Vara Rao’s residence in Hyderabad.
Earlier, on June 6 several arrests were made under draconian UAPA after simultaneous raids in Mumbai, Nagpur and New Delhi.
Police had arrested Sudhir Dhawale, editor of the progressive Marathi magazine Vidrohi and a key organiser of the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan, from Mumbai.
At least three persons including advocate Surendra Gadling, general secretary, Indian Association of People’s Lawyers; Professor Shoma Sen, the head of the Department of English, Nagpur University; and Mahesh Raut, anti-displacement activist from Bharat Jan Andolan and a former fellow at the Prime Minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) for Gadchiroli District from Nagpur. Similarly, Rona Wilson, public relations secretary, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, was arrested from New Delhi on June 6.
Pertinently, Pune police had arrested Milind Ekbote, the prime accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, in March. Two FIRs were lodged against Ekbote, who is the executive president of Samasta Hindu Aghadi outfit, for allegedly orchestrating the riots which left one-person dead. He is currently out on bail.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier given a clean chit to the another accused Sambhaji Bhide in the riots. Fadvavis told Maharashtra Legislative Assembly that there was no evidence of any direct involvement of Bhide in the riots.
A few months ago, five people including Surendra Gadgil were arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case and Sudha Bharadwaj had held a press conference against these arrests. During the press conference she had clearly mentioned that the activists who are working for the rights of the Dalits and backwards are being trapped in this way. A negative propaganda has been emerging around Sudha Bharadwaj, claiming that she is an ‘urban naxal’ and she has been speaking put against it.
The material confiscated from Sudha Bharadwaj’s house has not been shown to her and she suspects that the police may tamper with this material.
Speaking on the matter, senior advocate Vrinda Grover told National Herald that she had a talk with Sudha Bharadwaj and Sudha expressed her fears that “There may be arbitrary tampering with things recovered from their home. During the raid, the police have recovered two laptops, two phone, one pen drive and a diary from her home”. Sudha has told Vrinda Grover clearly that the police have not shown the data in their record. Therefore, she suspects that the police can manipulate the data according to their convenience and can write and add things in the diary.
This is a developing story, will be updated