New Delhi: In sweeping raids across six cities, at least five activists with alleged Maoist links were arrested on Tuesday by the Pune police. Raids were conducted at the homes of nine activists in Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, Ranchi and Hyderabad. The arrests were in connection with Koregaon Bhima violence in January this year, in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Marathas, the police said.
Those arrested include activist Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Pereira and Vernon Gonsalves.
Summing it up
- A team of Pune Police on Tuesday morning searched the Mumbai residences of lawyer Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Pereira, who were representing the case of five persons arrested previously for alleged Maoist connections. One team also searched the house of Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi. He was arrested.
- Varavara Rao was arrested for his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his family said. Rao’s name had cropped up in a letter seized by the police during searches at the premises of one of the five people arrested in June in connection with the Elgar Parishad event on December 31 last year to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle in 1818. He was arrested in Hyderabad.
- While activist Sudha Bhardwaj was picked up from Faridabad, activists Gautam Navlakha from Delhi, Arun Pereira and Venon Gonsalves from Mumbai are also in custody.
- Kranti was arrested in Telangana. Anand Teltumbde’s Goa home also featured on the list, but the activist wasn’t at home.
- Officials said they started searches at 6 am and will continue through the day. “We have recovered some documents, laptops and other material. The scrutiny of seized items is on,” said a senior official on the condition of anonymity.
- Officials told Hindustan Times that names of those whose houses are being searched came up during the interrogation of five persons arrested in June – Sudhir Dhawale, a member of the Republican Panthers; Surendra Gadling, a prominent lawyer; Rona Wilson, an activist; Mahesh Raut, former Prime Minister rural development fellow and Soma Sen, a retired Nagpur University professor.
- They were arrested for having close Maoist links after they allegedly made “provocative” speeches at the Elgar Parishad on December 31 to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle, triggering violence at Koregaon Bhima village in the district, according to an FIR registered at the Vishrambaug Police Station after the event.
- Members of the Dalit community from all over Maharashtra had gathered in Koregaon Bhima, near Pune, to celebrate what they call their victory over Maratha Peshwas. This year was the 200th anniversary of “Vijay Diwas” that attracted a three lakh-strong crowd.
- Dalit thinkers and activists consider it as a victory of the oppressed over the upper-caste establishment of the Marathas. Dalit leader and Gujarat lawmaker Jignesh Mewani had attended the event.
- However, ‘Right wing’ groups had reportedly opposed the Dalit celebrations saying they cannot observe a ‘British’ victory. Clashes between ‘right-wing’ groups and Dalits who had congregated there turned violent. The violence spread to Mumbai and other cities in the next three days. One person died and several were injured in the violence.