Bhima-Koregaon violence: Police raid activists’ homes across country, 4 arrested

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Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk: Pune Police on Tuesday raided residences of prominent activists across the country and arrested five of them for their suspected Maoist links.

The searches were conducted in Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Haryana. The raids were carried out as part of the probe into the violence at Maharashtra’s Koregaon Bhima village following an event held in Pune last year.

Searches are being carried out at the homes of Left-wing activist and poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Chhattisgarh and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha, who lives in Delhi, PTI quoted a a senior police officer as saying.

Rao, Ferreira, Gonsalves and Bhardwaj have been arrested by the Pune police. Although Navalakha was also arrested, the Delhi High Court ordered police not to take him out of the national capital at least until Wednesday.

The high court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Navalakha by his advocate Warisha Farasat after he was picked up from his Delhi home this afternoon by the Maharashtra police

Varavara  Rao’s name had cropped up in a letter seized by the police during searches at the premises of one of the five people arrested in June in connection with the Elgar Parishad event on December 31 last year to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle in 1818.

The police have seized items like computers, laptops, CDs, documents and books from them and claimed that they functioned like an ‘urban think tank’ for Maoists.

In June, five people were arrested for having close Maoist links after they allegedly made “provocative” speeches at the event, triggering violence at Koregaon Bhima village in the district, according to an FIR registered at the Vishrambaug Police Station after the event.

Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale was arrested from his home in Mumbai, while lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen were picked up from Nagpur and Rona Wilson was arrested from his flat in Munirka in Delhi in simultaneous raids in June.

Police said probes were being conducted at homes of the five arrested and those who were directly or indirectly connected with them.

Outrage over raids and arrests of rights activists

Civil rights activists have voiced deep anguish at the arrests of prominent civil rights activists and multi-city searches of their homes.

“Fascist fangs are now openly bared,” tweeted lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

“It is a clear declaration of emergency. They are going after anyone who has spoken against the government on rights issues. They are against any dissent,” Bhushan said.

Noted historian Ramachandra Guha called the action “absolutely chilling” and demanded the intervention of the Supreme Court to stop this “persecution and harassment” of independent voices.

“Sudha Bharadwaj is as far from violence and illegality as Amit Shah is close to those things,” tweeted Guha.

Rights activist Shabnam Hashmi, too, strongly condemned the raids.

“Strongly condemn raids on human right defenders’ homes since Morning in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Telangana, Delhi, Goa. Stop harassing HRDs! Condemn Modi’s authoritarian regime,” Hashmi said on Twitter.

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