As part of an investigation into the violence in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune after an event on 31 December, the Maharashtra Police raided the homes of several prominent left-wing activists in different locations across the country on Tuesday.
The initial raids were conducted in the homes of Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.
Subsequently, Rao, Bhardwaj, Gonsalves and Farreira were arrested. Although Navalakha was also arrested, the Delhi High Court ordered the police not to take him out of the national capital at least until Wednesday. According to unconfirmed reports, the others whose residences were raided are Susan Abraham, Kranthi Tekula, Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Anand Teltumbde in Goa.
Here are their brief profiles:
The 77-year-old activist who was arrested on Tuesday 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. He was released and arrested on more than one occasion 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 the Andhra Pradesh 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.
Bharadwaj was born in Massachusetts in the United States and came to India when she was 11 years old. She gave up her US citizenship when she was 18 and joined the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur for a five-year integrated course in mathematics.
She is best known for her work in Chhattisgarh, where she has lived for 29 years, fighting for the rights of mine workers in Bhilai as a member of late Shankar Guha Niyogi's Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. Bharadwaj began working with the group in 1986, after witnessing the abysmal working conditions of labourers in West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh during her stint as a student at 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.
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.
Navlakha has been associated with People's Union for Democratic Rights and is a Delhi-based journalist. He is also an editorial consultant for the Economic and Political Weekly.
Along with Bharadwaj, he has demanded the repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. They have maintained that 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 the Valley for the last two decades, has also written extensively about the alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.
A blog run by his friends describes Gonsalves as a "leader of the Altar Boys" and "a strong believer of justice, equality and freedom". A gold medallist from the University of Mumbai and a former lecturer at Ruparel College and HR College, Gonzalves, security agencies allege, was an ex-central committee member and former secretary of the Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of Naxalites. He was charged in around 20 cases and was acquitted due to lack of evidence after serving six years in jail.
The civil rights lawyer represented many of those arrested during the raids in June by the police in connection with the Elgar Parishad event at Bhima Koregaon. The wife of Gonzalves, Abraham was born in Kerala to school teachers and studied in Zambia. She was also part of protests against demonetisation and fake encounters and for workers and women's rights.
Abraham has written extensively against the rigourous sentences given to Delhi University professor GN Saibaba and activist Prashant Rahi, among others, calling them a "misuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act". Her name can be seen in the credits of a film, Court, in which she guided filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane through the intricacies of the law.
An engineer, MBA and former CEO, Teltumbde is also a leading scholar and activist for Dalit rights. He has authored books on people's movement particularly about leftist agitations and Dalit rights struggles. He also has a doctorate in cybernetics from the University of Mumbai. It is no coincidence that he has often argued that reservation for Dalits has, in fact, stigmatised them and consecrated caste in India's polity.
Speaking on the raid at his residence, Teltumbde, a professor of data analytics at the Goa Institute of Management, said he is not even remotely connected to the allegations levelled against him. "Whatever are my opinions, they are in the public domain. What reaction can I offer to you? I cannot even remotely think of such a kind of thing happening to me," Teltumbde told PTI.
Teltumbde said what the police were claiming about Maoist links of left-wing activists is "nonsense". "We are not in such kind of business. We are respected people. They are doing nonsense. Most of them (arrested activists) are human rights activists. It is natural that they will speak in favour of those people whose rights are violated," he said.
Father Stan Swamy
The human rights activist founded the Vistapan Virodhi Janvikash Andolan, a platform that advocates the rights of indigenous people, including adivasis and Dalits. Swamy was among the 20 people against whom a sedition case was filed in July for posting statements against the Jharkhand government for inciting tension over the Pathalgadi movement.
Tekula is a journalist with Namaste Telangana. According to reports, he lives in Nagole and works as a photographer.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Aug 28, 2018 23:46 PM