Deja Vu of False Charges & Arrests: Kin of Activists Recount Raids

The question plaguing the kin of the arrested activists: will this be another round of charge-arrest-acquit-repeat?

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Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam and Vivek Gupta


In an emotional video recording on 28 August, Professor K Satyanarayana, son-in-law of arrested activist Varavara Rao is heard saying, “There’s no single charge against me. I have been punished just because I am the son-in-law of Varavara Rao. What is the crime that I have done?”

Professor Satyanarayana’s residence in Hyderabad was raided by members of the Pune Police for several hours on the same day that Varavara and fellow activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Gautam Navlakha were arrested on allegations of being linked to the Bhima Koregaon violence.

The fact that I have been an activist and a political person does not mean that I am a criminal. They’ve treated me like a terrorist.
Professor K Satyanarayana

In Mumbai, 23-year-old Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves had to bid his activist father Vernon goodbye. Thanks to the interim relief provided by the Supreme Court to the arrested activists, Vernon is now back home. But all is far from well.

On the day of the arrest: Activist Vernon Gonsalves, lawyer Susan Abraham and their son Sagar click a selfie before the cops take Vernon away.
(Photo courtesy: Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves)

Speaking to The Quint, Sagar explains, “See, the charge still exists. The charge is still on him. There is still a possibility that he can be taken back and put in prison again. That’s when the helplessness turns into rage, because I’ve seen him go through this whole cycle of being put in prison, having numerous false charges put against him.”

In 2007, the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad had arrested Vernon Gonsalves alleging that he was a “top-level Naxalite”. Six years later, Vernon walked out of jail after being acquitted in the 17 cases against him.

Sagar recounts the morning of the raid with a feeling of helplessness, “We couldn’t do anything to stop all of this that was happening, to stop this raid, to stop them taking my dad away. All I could do was to tell my dad to be strong. He was trying to joke about the whole thing, telling me that I will have to start writing letters to him again because that’s what I would do back then when he was in jail. He was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to have to start writing letters to each other again’, and all I could do was smile.”


“Why Do You Read Marx?”

The cops kept asking me, “Why are you reading Marx? Why are you reading Mao? Why are you being an intellectual? You get so much of money. Why don’t you be happy?”
Prof K Satyanarayana
After the raid: Prof K Satyanarayana speaks to his friends outside his Hyderabad residence.
(Photo: Screenshot/Facebook)

On the day of the raids, Satyanarayana, who teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, pleaded to the people outside his house, “I am a professor. I teach, I do my duty. There is nothing criminal about it.”

In Mumbai, at activist Vernon Gonsalves and Susan Abraham’s home, of all the things that the Pune Police found “suspicious” enough to take back with them, was a book owned by 23-year-old Sagar.

The cops packed away my personal copy of the Bolshevik Revolution Volume 1 by E H Carr as “evidence.”
Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves

Both Sagar’s family and Prof Satyanarayana were repeatedly questioned about why they read “such books”. But how these books can serve as evidence for any wrongdoing, the Pune Police will have to prove in court. And for these families, that’s a battle for another day.


Sagar was 12 when his father was arrested in 2007. More than a decade later, he says that the familiar pain has returned. “Last time, he was in prison for around five and a half years. Five and a half years are no small amount of any person’s life. When he was acquitted for all those cases, there was no reparation of any sorts given to him.”

It’s wrong. It honestly makes me really, really angry that our state can do this to people, that they can just clamp down on them with all their force and do it in such a blatant manner. That is what’s happening, not just with my father, but with so many other people.
Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves

Arun Ferreira, one of the activists currently under house arrest, was also arrested in 2007, to be acquitted years later in 11 different cases. But not before he spent close to five long years in jail.

Arun Ferreira, a human rights activist and lawyer, after he was arrested by the Pune Police, in Mumbai on 28 August.
(Photo: PTI)
So the question plaguing these families is – will this be another cycle of “charge-arrest-acquit-repeat”?

Satyanarayana: Will Approach SC Against the Illegal Raid

I am going to move the Supreme Court because I have already been punished by this process.
Prof K Satyanarayana

Satyanarayana adds, “They have not informed me what charges are against me. They have not informed me in the language that I know, either English or Telugu. The whole exercise of harassment, for more than eight hours, and subjecting to humiliation, is totally illegal.”

Yet, despite the difficulties, the families of the arrested activists are clutching on to a sense of optimism and hope.

You can call people names, you can put numerous false charges against them. But ultimately, these are the people who are standing for the rights of other people, those people who don’t have a voice. The truth will prevail.
Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves

He adds, “We live in a democratic society. And dissent, as the Supreme Court said, is a very very essential part of a democratic society.”

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