Bhima Koregaon raids: Activists arrested for Maoist links, opposition attacks Modi

The Maharashtra Police on Tuesday raided the offices and homes of prominent Left-wing activists in numerous states and arrested at least five of them for alleged links with Maoists, prompting human rights defenders and Opposition to call it “virtual declaration of emergency”.

The raids were carried out as part of the investigation into the violence between Dalits and upper caste Peshwas at Koregaon-Bhima village, near Pune, after the “Elgar Parishad” (conclave) on December 31, 2017.

According to the officials, two letters recovered over the past few months, indicating Maoist plans to assassinate PM Narendra Modi.

Simultaneous searches were carried out at the residences and offices of prominent people, those arrested include activist-lawyers Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, Left-wing Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist-journalist Gautam Navlakha from Delhi, said a police official.

They were charged under various Sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their “alleged Naxal activities”, said a police official.

The police said eight places in Hyderabad, Ranchi, Delhi, Faridabad, and Mumbai were searched. Houses of journalist Tekula Kranthi in Hyderabad and tribal leader Father Stan Swamy in Jharkhand were also searched.

Tuesday’s events mirrored simultaneous raids conducted in June when five activists were arrested in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence.

The police said those arrested were linked to five people who were arrested in June in connection with the “Elgar Parishad”, commemorating 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle in 1818.  

In Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee leader Varavara Rao was arrested residence at Gandhi Nagar in Hyderabad by a Pune police team, also many documents were seized in the searches.

In June, Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Mahesh Raut, academic Shoma Sen and activist Rona Wilson were arrested in connection with the “Elgar Parishad”, commemorating 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle in 1818.  

After the arrests of the activists, opposition Including Congress attacked PM Modi, In a tweet Congress Said, “The draconian arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Fereira, and Vernon Gonsalves & other human rights activists further substantiate the anti-democratic actions of the ruling govt. PM Modi’s ‘New India’ is nothing but a dictatorship wrapped in expensive advertising.”

In the latest update, activist Gautam Navlakha obtained a stay order from the Delhi High Court, averting the Maharashtra Police from taking him out of Delhi till Wednesday and activist Sudha Bharadwaj, also got relief from the Punjab and Haryana High Court as it directed that she can be kept at her home at Badarpur border in Haryana from where she was arrested. A petition challenging the arrest of five activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence has also been filed in the Supreme Court.