Five 'Maoist sympathisers' held in nationwide raids

Revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao after a medical chek-up following his arrest by the Pune Police in Hyderabad on Tuesday. PTI

Revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao and four others were arrested in multiple raids across six states on Tuesday.

The action against the group of Maoist sympathisers is linked to the Elgar Parishad meeting which was held in Pune a day before the January 1 Koregaon Bhima riots.

Varavara Rao was arrested by the Pune Police from Hyderabad in Telangana, while Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested from Mumbai, Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad and Gautam Navlakha from Delhi. 

“We have arrested them in connection with a case registered in January vis-a-vis the Elgar Parishad, registered in the Vishram Baug police station,” Joint Commissioner of Police Shivajirao Bodkhe told DH over phone from Pune.

“Raids were carried out in multiple locations in six states,” he said. Bodkhe said he would not comment further at this stage. 

The Elgar Parishad (conclave) was held at Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2017, by the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan. The FIR, originally registered under sections 153(A), 505 (1)(b), 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, was made a conspiracy case in March. Now, sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been added.

Earlier, five others — Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut — were arrested in the same case. 

The Pune Police refused to comment on the details of the case.

Plot to kill Modi

It is suspected that Maoist organisations funded the Elgar Parishad. Besides, during investigations of the five arrested earlier, it had come to light that there was a plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi the way Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. 

“We are investigating the case, the accused are being brought to Mumbai. We will interrogate them individually, jointly and confront them,” top officers of the Pune Police said. 

The action against Varavara Rao has shocked Telangana. The arrest took place amid slogan-shouting by rights activists gathered at his house in Hyderabad.

Rao was whisked away by police after an eight-hour search of his house since early morning.

The Pune police had arrived in Hyderabad on Monday night and started simultaneous searches at the houses of eight people, including professor Satyanarayana of EFLU (English and Foreign Languages University), and two journalists close to Varavara Rao.

“They (police) did not even allow relatives and friends to contact Varavara or his wife,” said rights activist N Venu Gopal.

‘Falsely implicated’

Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira said they were being framed. “We are being falsely implicated,” said Gonsalves. “It is a clear attempt to target human rights activists across the country,” said Ferreira.

Maharashtra’s Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar said the arrests were based on evidence. “These are educated people who were arrested... after the police found links (with Maoist organisations/people),” he said.

Ambedkar’s grandson and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) president Prakash Ambedkar criticised the action as “the government’s attempts to silence masses” in the wake of the recent crackdown on Hindu right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha.

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Five 'Maoist sympathisers' held in nationwide raids

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