Pune: In a series of raids conducted by the Pune police, five left-leaning activists and lawyers were arrested on Tuesday from Mumbai, Delhi, Faridabad, Hyderabad and Ranchi for alleged involvement in organising Elgar Parishad and alleged involvement in Koregaon-Bhima riots.
Shivaji Bodke, Joint Commissioner of Pune Police, said, “The five people, who have been arrested by the police, have Maoist links and they were involved in Koregaon-Bhima riots. Further investigation is going on.”
Those arrested on Tuesday were Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha.
Human rights lawyer and activist Sudha Bhardwaj, who is working in Chhattisgarh for labourers and tribals from last three decades, was arrested from her Faridabad-based residence. Activist Vernon Gonsalves and human rights lawyer Arun Ferreira were arrested from their residences in Mumbai and Thane respectively.
Poet and leftist Varavara Rao was arrested from Hyderabad, whereas civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha was arrested from Delhi.
The police also raided the residences of Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi, Anand Teltumbade, who is a scholar and professor at Goa Institute of Management in Goa, senior journalist KV Kurmanath (son-in-law of Varavara Rao) and photographer T Kranti in Hyderabad.
According to sources, the police raids started at 6 am at the nine places across six states in the country. The police seized laptops, books, pen drives and hard discs from the raided houses.
Susan Abraham, wife of Vernon Gonsalves, said, “The police raided our house at 6 am and carried out the search till 1.45 pm, after which they took my husband away. I don’t know on what charges they arrested him.”
Susan Abraham was also representing the case of the Rona Wilson and others, who were arrested earlier by the police, in June in connection with Elgar Parishad case.
The arrests are “a dangerous sign of a government that fears it is losing its mandate and is falling into panic. That lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals are being arrested on ludicrous charges ... tells us very clearly where India is headed,” award-winning author Arundhati Roy told PTI.
Rao, Bhardwaj, Farreira, 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 sources.
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.
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.
Tuesday’s arrests were 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.
(With Agency inputs)
Raids at nine places
- According to sources, the police raids started at 6 am at the nine places across six states in the country. The police seized laptops, books, pen drives and hard discs from the raided houses.
- Shivaji Bodke, Joint Commissioner of Pune Police, said, “The five people, who have been arrested by the police, have Maoist links and they were involved in Koregaon-Bhima riots. Further investigation is going on.”