New Delhi: The Pune Police on Tuesday arrested five left-wing activists including Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
The police raided homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least five of them — poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and Chhattisgarh and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.
The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalit and the upper caste groups at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad on December 31 last year.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi targeted the Modi government and RSS over the nationwide raids and arrests of human rights activists and lawyers, saying that there is place for only “one NGO” in “new India” which is called the RSS.
“There is only place for one NGO in India and it’s called the RSS. Shut down all other NGOs. Jail all activists and shoot those that complain. Welcome to the new India,” he tweeted.
The CPI(M) Polit Bureau protested against the raids and arrests of left-wing activists, calling it a “brazen attack on democratic rights and civil liberties”.
It also alleged that the Maharashtra Police and central agencies have been targeting Dalit rights activists and lawyers who have been taking up their cases, following the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
The police said all the five, who were arrested later, are suspected to have Maoist links and had allegedly funded the Elgar Parishad conclave.
Security officials in Delhi said two letters, purportedly exchanged by Maoist leaders indicating plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, led to the police action.
In a related development, the Delhi High Court directed Maharashtra Police not to take Navlakha out of Delhi till Wednesday and keep him under house arrest till further orders.
According to unconfirmed reports, raids were also carried out at residences of several other activists including Susan Abraham, Kranthi Tekula, Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Anand Teltumbde in Goa.
Officials described Tuesday’s operations as a follow-up to similar action taken on April 17 when the Pune Police swooped on over half a dozen Dalit activists and those involved with the Kabir Kala Manch, which organised an Elgar Conference in Pune on December 31.
The next day, on January 1, caste riots erupted in Koregaon-Bhima which left one person dead, culminating in a Maharashtra shutdown on January 3 called by the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh of Prakash Ambedkar.
After nearly five months, Pune Police teams fanned out in around half a dozen states and raided the homes and offices of several persons who are suspected to be linked with the Elgar Conference or are considered as Maoist supporters.
The police have seized items like computers, laptops, CDs, pen-drives, ‘incriminating documents’ and books from them and contended that they functioned like an ‘urban think tank’ for Maoists.
Previously, during the April action, the Pune police had targeted rights activists like Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale (all arrested) besides raiding Harshali Potdar, Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaychor and Sagar Gorke.
Those arrested were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code.