At least five activists were arrested on Tuesday, 28 August, after the Pune police conducted raids across India, on people suspected to have Maoist links in the Bhima Koregaon violence.
Police teams arrested activist-poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi, after conducting raids at their residence.
Shivaji Bodkhe, Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order), Pune, told ANI that raids were conducted across Hyderabad, Delhi, Haryana, Mumbai and Ranchi.
Taking a dig at the arrests, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said India has place for only one NGO – the RSS.
RAIDS, DETENTIONS AND ARRESTS
According to Scroll.in, the residences of human rights activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were raided in Mumbai.
Speaking to the news website, Ferreira said that he had been involved in the Bhima-Koregaon case for representing Surendra Gadling, who was earlier arrested on 6 June along with four others in connection with the violence.
Both Gonsalves and Ferreria have been arrested.
In Delhi, a police team raided the residence of civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha. Navlakha is currently under house arrest after the Delhi High Court ordered that he should not be taken away from the national capital till it hears the matter on 29 August.
The high court heard a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Navlakha by his advocate Warisha Farasat on Tuesday, after he was picked up from his residence by the Maharashtra police.
In Faridabad, a police team arrested civil rights lawyer and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, who is currently a practising lawyer in the Chhattisgarh High Court.
According to a report in The Wire, Sudha Bharadwaj has been charged under section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), section 505 (statements conducting to public mischief), section 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than 10 persons) and section 120 of IPC.
She, however, will not be taken to Pune for the next three days, and will be placed under house arrest. This development reportedly came after Bharadwaj filed a habeas corpus petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan stayed the arrest.
After the Pune police took Bharadwaj in custody despite the court order, Chief Judicial Magistrate, Faridabad recalled the transit remand allowing Bharadwaj to be kept under house arrest at her home in Badarpur border.
In Hyderabad, the residences of Left-wing activist and poet Varavara Rao, and two other activists Kranti Tekula and Naseem were raided. The police then arrested Rao, while detaining Kranti Tekula as well, reported Scroll.in. The website reported that the houses of Rao's daughters were also searched.
In Ranchi, the police raided Stan Swamy's residence after the Pune police received a tip-off regarding "confidential information" in his possession.
The team reportedly seized all of Swamy's electronic possessions, including laptops, hard drives, cassettes and CDs, so as to prevent him from destroying any information.
The countrywide raids were part of an ever-expanding investigation into an alleged Maoist involvement in the Elgaar Parishad, an event that was held a day before the bicentennial of Bhima-Koregaon. According to the police, the speeches made at Elgaar Parishad incited violence during the Bhima-Koregaon event on 1 January 2018.
The Indian Express reported that the police claimed that the names of these activists had emerged during the interrogation of the activists arrested in June.
WHAT HAPPENED IN JUNE?
On 6 June, Professor Shoma Sen, advocate Surendra Gadling, cultural activist Sudhir Dhawale, human rights activist Rona Wilson, and anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut, were arrested from different locations in Nagpur, Bombay and Delhi by the Maharashtra Police.
The five were arrested under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for inciting violence and communal enmity, leading to the Bhima-Koregaon protests and violence in January 2018.
These five people who were arrested then were prominent Dalit rights activists who had taken several anti-establishment stances in the past.
2 LETTERS BY MAOISTS TO ASSASSINATE MODI, AMIT SHAH, TRIGGERED ACTION: OFFICIALS
Two letters, purportedly exchanged by Maoist leaders, indicated plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, leading to police action against prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrest of five of them for suspected links with the red ultras, security officials told PTI.
While the 2016 letter suggested that there were deliberations among the Naxals to kill Modi, Shah and Singh, the 2017 letter referred to a plan to carry out a Rajiv Gandhi assassination-type attack on the Prime Minister during one of his roadshows, they claimed.
The second letter was addressed to one “Comrade Prakash” and was found from the residence of a Delhi-based activist, Rona Wilson, on June 6, according to a security official privy to the development.
Along with Wilson, four others were also arrested during raids in June by police in different parts of the country in connection with the matter.
The letters were reportedly recovered after the anti-Naxal operations in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli, in which 39 Maoists were killed, in April.
The 2017 letter also referred about "senior comrades" suggesting "concrete steps" to end the NDA dispensation and about raising several crore of rupees to buy American M-4 rifles and some ammunition, the official said.
ARRESTED ACTIVISTS FUNDED ‘ELGAR PARISHAD’: OFFICIALS
The five activists arrested from various parts of the country today for suspected Maoist links had allegedly funded the 'Elgar Parishad' conclave in Pune, held a day before the Koregaon-Bhima violence, officials told PTI.
The speeches at the conclave, held on 31December last year to mark the 200th anniversary of the Koregaon-Bhima battle, had fuelled the violence a day later, they said.
They had allegedly funded the 'Elgar Parishad' conclave, a police official said.
(With inputs from PTI, The Wire and Scroll.in)