In joint raids across the country, the Pune police raided the homes of at least eight activists including Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Susan Abraham, Anand Teltumbde and Fr Stan Swamy across the country on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, under the pretext that these persons were behind the violence that erupted at the annual celebrations at Bhima-Koregaon memorial on December 31, 2017, and the police claim these activists were also involved in the plot to assassinate the Prime Minister.
According to reports, they have arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves. The Pune police had hoped to arrest Gautam Navlakha, but the Delhi High Court has issued a stay on the transit remand of Gautam Navlakha. The police will not be able to take Navlakha to Pune. He will have to be presented at the Delhi High Court on Wednesday. He is being detained at home.
So, who are the activists who have been raided?
Sudha Bharadwaj is an Indian trade unionist and a civil rights activist against land acquisition. She is currently the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and also the founder of Janhit (a lawyers collective) and is also associated with the late Shankar Guha Niyogi’s Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. Bharadwaj fought against corrupt bureaucrats to ensure proper wages were paid to the workers in the mines and plants located in Bhilai.
On June 7, activist lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, the Vice-President of the IAPL, along other lawyers and activists, accused the government and police of arresting Surender Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen and Sudhir Dhawale to shield Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, the leaders of a Hindutva outfit.
In March, Sudha Bharadwaj, rejected an invitation to 2018 annual memorial lecture organised by the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP) at JNU after the dean surpassed the suggestion of CESP to invite Pratap Bhanu Mehta and invited Shiv Choudhary to deliver the memorial lecture.
He has been associated with People's Union for Democratic Rights and is a Delhi-based journalist. He is also an editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly.
On August 2, Gautam Navlakha was issued a notice by Reliance group owned by Anil Ambani for a story on Rafale fighter aircraft. During a press conference in July, he along with Sudha Bharadwaj demanded repeal of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. They said, the Act, passed to regulate the activities of unlawful organisations, has been used by the government to curb extremist activities as opposed to unlawful activities.
Varavara Rao is a poet, journalist from Hyderabad. He is one one of the most revered critics of Marxist literature and has taught Telugu literature to graduate and undergraduate students for about 40 years. He founded Srujana (creation), a forum for modern literature in Telugu, in 1966 as a quarterly and later turned it into a monthly and successfully brought it out till 1992. He was one of the founders of Viplava Rachayitala Sangahm (Revolutionary Writers' Association), popularly known by its acronym Virasam.
Rao on June 9 refuted allegations that he had arranged funding for Maoist attacks in the country. His name had cropped up in one of three letters that surfaced after an alleged plot by Maoists to eliminate Prime Minister Narendra Modi was revealed. One of the letters said Varavara Rao was given the responsibility of carrying out attacks and it noted that he had arranged for funds to be handed over to Surendra Gadling.
Arun Ferreira, is a law graduate from Siddharth Law College, and is associated with an NGO Navjawan Bharat Sabha. He has also been part of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR).
He spent six years in Nagpur jail as a political prisoner. He was arrested in 2007 for alleged naxalite and anti-national activities under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Eleven cases were registered against him. He fought a relentless legal battle to prove that the charges were false and completely fabricated. In January 2014, he was acquitted in all the cases for lack of substantial evidence.
Susan Abraham is one of the best civil rights lawyers in Mumbai.
Vernon Gonzalves is a gold medallist from Mumbai University and a former lecturer at Ruparel College and HR College. Security agencies alleged that Gonzalves was an ex-central committee member and former secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of Naxalites. He was charged in around 20 cases and has been acquitted in all of them as the prosecution could not furnish any evidence.
Anand Teltumbde is a management professor, civil rights activist and political analyst. He has authored many books on various issues relating to Peoples' movement with particular emphasis on Left and Dalits.
Fr. Stan Swamy is a people’s rights defender. He is the founder of Vistapan Virodhi Janvikash Andolan (VVJA), an all India platform for different movements that are resisting displacement of adivasi people, dalits, and farmers from their lands. In the recent past, he has expressed dissent with several policies and laws enacted by the government relating to adivasi people and their lands. He has also questioned their validity and legality in the light of the Indian Constitution.