New Delhi: Maharashtra police on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least four of them for suspected Maoist links. The arrested four include Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi. However, the arrest was challenged today in the Supreme Court. Also Read - Migrant Exodus: 'Providing Food to 23 Lakh People,' Centre Tells SC; Says 'Fake News' Biggest Challenge
Eminent activists and lawyers, including Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande, Maya Darnall and one other person moved the apex court against the arrest of Left-wing activists. Also Read - Don't Want to Deal With Something The Govt Already Tackling, Says SC on Plea Over Migrant Workers' Plight
It must be noted that the raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalits and the upper caste Peshwas at Bhima-Koregaon village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year. Also Read - COVID-19 Lockdown: Supreme Court to Hear Plea on Migrant Workers on Monday
Check here brief profiles of all those who have been arrested:
Rao has been writing poetry since 1957. Founder member of Virasam (Revolutionary Writers’ Association), he was arrested in October 1973 under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). He was released and arrested on more than one occasions between 1975 and 1986 in different cases, including the 1986 Ramnagar conspiracy case in which he was acquitted in 2003 after 17 years. Rao was again arrested on 19 August 2005 under AP Public Security Act and sent to Chanchalguda Central Prison in Hyderabad. The case was struck down under the Public Security Act on 31 March 2006 and Rao obtained bails in all other cases.
An activist based in Mumbai, Ferreira was claimed to be the leader of the propaganda and communications wing of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2007. He was acquitted of all charges in 2014. In his book, Colours of the Cage: A Prison Memoir, published the same year, Ferreira, recounted the details of his imprisonment of nearly five years.
Bharadwaj is best known for her work in Chhattisgarh, where she has lived for 29 years and fought for the rights of mine workers in Bhilai, as a member of late Shankar Guha Niyogi’s Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. She began working with the Mukti Morcha in 1986, after witnessing the abysmal working conditions of labourers in West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh during her stint as a student in IIT Kanpur. A civil rights activist and lawyer, Bharadwaj has also been fighting against land acquisition, and is currently the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
A blog run by his friends describe Vernon Gonzalves as a “leader of the Altar Boys” and “a strong believer of justice, equality & freedom”. A gold medallist from Mumbai University and a former lecturer at Ruparel College and HR College, Gonzalves, security agencies allege, was an ex-central committee member and former secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of Naxalites. He was charged in around 20 cases and has been acquitted due to lack of evidence, after serving six years in jail.
Navlakha has been associated with People’s Union for Democratic Rights and is a Delhi-based journalist. He is also an editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly. He, along with Sudha Bharadwaj, demanded repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. They said, the Act, passed to regulate the activities of unlawful organisations, has been used by the government to curb extremist activities as opposed to unlawful activities. Navlakha, a frequent traveller to Kashmir Valley for the last two decades, has also written extensively about alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.