Activists arrested based on proof of Naxal links: Govt

Activists arrested based on proof of Naxal links: Govt

Arun Ferreira, a human rights activist and lawyer, after he was arrested by the Pune police in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence case, in Mumbai. PTI Photo

Seeking to counter rising criticism over the arrest of activists, government sources on Wednesday claimed seven activists under the scanner in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case belonged to organisations identified as Maoist-linked by the previous UPA government.

Sources sought to build a narrative around their activist background and suspected links with Maoists and that the previous UPA government too targeted them.

Sources highlighted that some of the activists were in jail for a longer period under the UPA regime, but there was no mention about the activists' acquittal.

As activists and parties condemned the arrest of five activists and searches of residences of some other activists, sources claimed that one of the arrested Varavara Rao has been taken into custody several times by the Andhra and Telangana Police in the past while Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested earlier and spent several years in prison.

However, the sources did not talk about the acquittal of Ferreira in 2014 of all charges of having Maoist links while Gonsalves walked free in 2013 after being jailed for six-seven years.

Sources said the UPA government had identified 128 organisations with linkages to the CPI (Maoist) in December 2012 and had written to all states asking them to take action against people involved with these organisations.

Rao, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Ferreira, Gonsalves and Mahesh Raut belonged to organisations appearing in this list, sources said.

While insisting that the activists arrested on charges of inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon have links with Maoists, they claimed that the CPI (Maoist) attaches huge importance to the "urban movement" that works towards the creation of a United Front in support of their movement.

"The urban movement is the main source for providing leadership and resources to the CPI (Maoist). The responsibility for the provision of supplies, technologies, expertise, information and other logistic support is also shouldered by the overground activists in urban centres," sources said.

Police sources in Pune said the instant case relates to the linkages of these individuals with CPI (Maoist), a "banned organisation operating with the devious objective of the overthrow of the democratic order".

"Such individuals cannot escape responsibility for aiding and abetting the violent acts committed by CPI(Maoist)’s underground cadres," they added.

The UPA government too had branded activists and said in Parliament that overground Maoists posing as "activists" in urban areas are providing hideouts to armed cadres of extreme-left wing groups and facilitating procurement of supplies for the Maoist war machinery.

According to government figures, 6,956 civilians and 2,517 security forces have been killed by the CPI (Maoist) since 2001.

They have also "caused massive damage" to infrastructure and virtually stalled development activities in some parts of the country.

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