What You Need To Know About 5 Activists Arrested After Multi-City Raids

The five who have been arrested are Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves

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What You Need To Know About 5 Activists Arrested After Multi-City Raids

Five activists, including Sudha Bharadwaj, were arrested in multi-city raids on Tuesday.


New Delhi: 

Five of the 10 activists, who were taken into custody over suspected Maoist links, have been put under house arrest until the Supreme Court's next hearing on September 6. The arrests followed simultaneous multi-city raids that began early in on Tuesday in Mumbai, Thane, Hyderabad, Ranchi, Delhi and Faridabad. They were charged under an anti-terror law after their names emerged during the Pune Police's investigation in Bhima-Koregaon violence in December last year.

The five who have been arrested are Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activists Arun Fereira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves. The action by the Pune Police has triggered a massive controversy, with many describing it as "absolutely chilling", a "virtual declaration of emergency" and an attempt to "muzzle the voice of dissent".

Here is a look at their journeys so far:

Sudha Bharadwaj 

Sudha Bharadwaj, who was arrested from Faridabad, is a US-born human rights lawyer and activist. When she turned 18, she relinquished her US citizenship. She then did MSc in Mathematics from IIT Kanpur. She is a member of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority and general secretary of the Chhattisgarh People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). She is also a visiting professor at National Law University Delhi.

She has worked in Chhattisgarh for close to three decades, as an advocate for the civil and human rights of Dalits, farmers, labourers and tribals. After becoming a lawyer in 2000, she began practising in the Chhattisgarh High Court.

Ms Bhardwaj has also been associated with the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Chhattisgarh Liberation Front), which was founded with an to fight for the cultural identity of the region and upliftment of workers and farmers.

Gautam Navlakha

Gautam Navlakha was arrested from his Delhi home. A journalist, editorial consultant at Economic and Political Weekly and civil rights activist, he has been the convener of the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK). Mr Navlakha, a frequent traveller to the Valley, has written extensively about alleged human rights violations in the state. In 2011, he was detained at the Srinagar Airport and ordered to return to Delhi as the state government felt his presence could disturb peace and order in the Valley.

His detention had triggered a debate about individual freedom. Mr Navlakha had called his detention "paranoia unbecoming of the state authorities".

National Conference's Farooq Abdullah has asked, "What does that writer want - to burn Kashmir? Let them burn some other place in India."

P Varavara Rao

Activist, writer and poet P Varavara Rao was arrested from his home in Hyderabad. He was one of the founders of Viplava Rachayitala Sangahm (Revolutionary Writers' Association), popularly known by its acronym Virasam, that supports and propagates Naxalite ideology.  He taught Telugu literature at various colleges for nearly four decades.

The 78-year-old was arrested and released in 10 different cases between 1974 and 1986 for his revolutionary writings, including the 1986 Ramnagar conspiracy case in which he was acquitted in 2003 after 17 years.

In 1986, one of his poetry collection Bhavishyathu Chitrapatam (Portrait of the Future) was banned by the Andhra Pradesh government.  Mr Rao was again arrested on August 19, 2005 under the AP Public Security Act, his Revolutionary Writers Association 'Virasam' was banned and he was sent to a prison in Hyderabad. The case was struck down a year later.

Arun Ferreira

A Mumbai-based human rights activist and lawyer, Arun Ferreira was picked up from his home in Thane, near Mumbai. In 2007, Mr Ferreira was working as an activist with Deshbhakti Yuva Manch, an organisation branded Maoist by the government, and was arrested on charges of being a Naxal operative. The social work he did for an NGO Navjawan Bharat Sabha was deemed as "covert naxalite activity". He was imprisoned for four years starting 2007 and was acquitted of all charges in 2011.

During this four-year period, 11 cases were filed against him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Arms Act. He was also charged with sedition. He also alleged that he was tortured in custody and detailed his experience in his book, "Colours of the Cage: A Prison Memoir".

After being released from jail, the St Xavier's College alumnus studied law at a law college in Mumbai and started defending other prisoners, including his co-accused, in court.

Vernon Gonsalves

Vernon Gonsalves, a civil rights activist, was arrested in Mumbai. In 2007, he was arrested along with Arun Ferreira on charges of being a Naxal operative. He was convicted in June 2013 under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act and Arms Act. He had already served six years in prison for terror charges, so he was released immediately.

A former professor at University of Mumbai, Mr Gonsalves was charged in around 20 cases. He was acquitted in 17 cases as the prosecution could not produce enough evidence.



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