Raids were conducted across six cities in connection with Koregaon Bhima violence.
- 5 activists were arrested by Pune police over allegations of Maoist links
- Raids were conducted in connection with Koregaon Bhima violence
- Raids carried out in Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, Ranchi and Hyderabad
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, and activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves. The raids were carried out in Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, Ranchi and Hyderabad.
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Late Tuesday evening, Sudha Bharadwaj's advocates raised an alarm, saying she had not been kept under house arrest as ordered by a court. The court had granted her relief for three days, saying she could not be taken to Pune. After her lawyers said they would move court, Ms Bhardwaj was brought back to the magistrate's home in a police car and was taken inside for a hearing on the next steps. The magistrate, at 1 am, asked the police to comply with the high court order and keep her under house arrest till August 30.
Activists Arun Fereira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested from Thane and Mumbai. Human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj was picked up from her home in Faridabad. Gautam Navlakha's transit remand to Pune is also 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.
Varavara Rao, activist and poet, was arrested in Hyderabad for his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr 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.
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."
Speaking to NDTV, Ramachandra Guha blamed it on the "corporate cronies of the ruling government," who, he said, were bent on grabbing tribal land, forest and mineral resources. The arrest of the activists was meant to take away the only representation the tribals have, he said.
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," he said.
The raids followed the questioning of five people -- Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Shoma Sen -- who were arrested in June, sources said. They had allegedly made "provocative" speeches at the event, triggering violence at Koregaon Bhima village.
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. 'Right wing' groups had reportedly opposed the 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.