The five activists detained in the Bhima-Koregaon case

Last Updated: Thu, Aug 30, 2018 13:01 hrs
Virasam

In a nationwide raid conducted by the police on Tuesday, several activists were arrested on allegations of them having links to the now banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). The raids were conducted as part of a probe into the violence at Maharashtra's Bhima-Koregaon village following an event held in Pune last year.

Five activists were arrested for their alleged links. The police have been probing the violence that occurred between dalits and upper caste Peshwas after an event in Pune last December.

The violent clashes happened on the first day of this year. The Pune police have indicated that similar raids in the coming days cannot be ruled out.

The arrests on Tuesday were a follow up to the raids and arrest made on June 6 when a group of professors and lawyers were arrested and their homes raided. There has been condemnation from various circles including from prominent authors Arundhati Roy and Ramchandra Guha, who stated that the arrests were due to the “corporate cronies of the ruling government” intent on capitalizing the land and resources from tribals. Those who were arrested on Tuesday were:

Varavara Rao

He is a renowned Telugu poet and writer who founded Virasam (Revolutionary Writers' Association) which was later banned by the Andhra government. He is a vocal advocate of the rights of tribals in the country. A specific charge against Rao is his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate Narendra Modi which was uncovered based on a letter obtained by police in the June raids.

Rao is someone who is well known in Leftist ideologue circles, is no stranger to controversy and is considered by some to be a propagator of Maoist ideology. He has been arrested a few times before by the Andhra radish government for his alleged involvement in conspiracies to destabalise the government. During the time of the emergency he was behind bars and subsequently his activities since have come under scrutiny from successive governments.

Sudha Bharadwaj

The 54 year old resident of Chhattisgarh is known as a trade unionist who has worked extensively in the fields of human rights and civil liberties. An American citizen by birth, she came to Indian at the age of 11and gave up her American citizenship at the age of 18. Graduating out of IIT-Kanpur, she began her career working for people who had been adversely affected by land acquisitions done by private companies.

She is the General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties. She is also a visiting professor at the National Law University, Delhi. She is currently under house arrest at her home in Faridabad till the end of the month. Known as ‘women of the people’ in Chhattisgarh, she represents union contract workers in court to fight for their cause. The local police do not see her as a positive force as the Inspector General of Police states, “We don’t like or respect the work she does. Anyone who plays with the integrity of the nation, or the internal security, should be dealt with seriously”.

She is also the founder of Janhit a collective group of lawyers who work on legal aid to marginalized groups and continues to persist in the face of adversity as she stated in a 2015 interview, “It’s okay that I will make some difficult enemies in the process. The struggle will go on”.

Gautam Navlakha

He is a Delhi based author and journalist who has been associated with the People's Union for Democratic Rights. He is also an editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly. He is someone who has travelled to and written about the Kashmir valley and the alleged human rights abuses there. In 2010, he was refused entry into the state and was forced to return to Delhi.

He was in Srinagar however to join activists from the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Administered Kashmir (IPTK) and the Srinagar-based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), who alleged that many army and police personnel were involved in human rights abuses and had not been prosecuted. He joined activists in a news conference detailing the violence, rape and other crimes that were committed.

Along with Sudha Bharadwaj, he demanded the repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. This act was passed to regulate and monitor activities of what were deemed unlawful organisations and groups. The duo alleged that the Act was being used by the government to curb what was seen as extremist activities as opposed to unlawful ones.

Vernon Gonsalves & Arun Ferreira

Vernon Gonsalves is as writer, social activist and trade unionist and a critic of the current Modi led government. After the June raids and arrests, he co-authored a piece with Ferreira titled “Why the letter about a 'Rajiv Gandhi-type' assassination plot to kill Modi is fake” detailing that the incident was done to divert attention from the probe into the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Ferreira is also someone who isn’t a stranger to controversy. In 2007, the Maharashtra police claimed, upon his arrest, that they had nabbed a Naxal operative. He was charged with violence and several Maoist conspiracies. Subsequently, he has been arrested and released on multiple occasions. He published a memoir titled “Colours of the Cage” in 2014 detailing his ordeal in custody which contains sketches and cartoons of his daily life in prison and the torture he alleged he was subjected to there.

One commonality among those who were arrested is their alleged links to Naxal, Maoist groups. In 2006, Manmohan Singh stated that Naxalism is the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country. The run in that these activists had with law enforcement are not exclusive to this government, though some members of the opposition have condemned the arrests.

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