Maharashtra cops crack down on ‘urban Naxals’ in five states
Five prominent human rights activists and intellectuals arrested in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case
Teams of Pune Police on Tuesday carried out synchronized raids in five states at the homes of prominent civil and human rights activists and intellectuals, whom the Maharashtra Police and intelligence officials have called “urban Naxals” and arrested five of them in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.
A senior Pune Police official, who requested anonymity, confirmed that raids had been carried out at the homes of radical poet Varavar Rao in Hyderabad, civil rights activist, intellectual, and author Anand Teltumbde in Goa, national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad, lawyer and human rights activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai, former PUCL secretary Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, and tribal rights activist Stan Swamy in Ranchi.
Rao, Bharadwaj, Navlakha, Ferreira and Gonsalves have been arrested, the police official said.
“We have been able to recover several CDs, hard drives, and letters from these places. There are credible links with the Elgar Parishad organized in Pune and the violence thereafter and these people have been on our watch list for quite some time,” the official said.
Five other “urban Naxals” and “Naxal sympathizers” were arrested in Maharashtra and Delhi on 6 June in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon case, including Rona Wilson, an activist and Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, civil right activists Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut, and lawyer Surendra Gadling.
Police have found 200-250 email exchanges between those arrested on 6 June and those who were raided and arrested on Tuesday, said the Pune Police official quoted above. “These emails talk about preparations for the Elgar Parishad, logistical support, and the kind of speeches to be made,” the official said.
“The ‘urban Naxal’ has been around and active for a long time in Maharashtra though it has always been legally challenging to establish them as such. Some of these people are well-entrenched in the civil society and have immense legal and intellectual resources at their disposal. In the past the leads against them have rarely been backed by proof but this time I believe the police have a strong case at least against some of them,” said another senior police officer who has previously worked in the state’s anti-Naxal unit.
Offences against those who were arrested on 6 June were registered by the Pune Police after a Pune resident Tushar Damugade filed a complaint against what he alleged were “inflammatory speeches” made by some of these activists at the Elgar Parishad held in Pune on 31 December last year. The Parishad was held ahead of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon near Pune where violent clashes had taken place between Dalits and others.
Anand Teltumbde dismissed all the charges made against those arrested on 6 June and on Tuesday. “None of the people arrested last time and today had the remotest connection with Bhima-Koregaon. As for me, I had publicly written critically about observing the Bhima-Koregaon anniversary, incurring wrath of Dalits,” Teltumbde told Mint.
Delhi high court put a stay on Navlakha’s transit remand to a Pune court but ordered his house arrest till a hearing on Wednesday morning.
The Politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) strongly protested the raids on the homes of “civil rights and human rights activists and Left intellectuals”, calling them “a brazen attack on democratic rights and civil liberties” and demanding the immediate release of those arrested.
Yunus Y. Lasania from Hyderabad, and Sharan Poovanna from Bengaluru contributed to this story.
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