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Arrest of activists based on proof of Maoist links: Maharashtra government

Pune police on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent activists in several states and arrested five of them — Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade unionist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and Chhattisgarh and activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2018 17:03 IST
activist,Maoist,Maharashtra
An activist shouts slogans opposing the arrests of five prominent rights activists, in New Delhi on Wednesday.(AP)

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday defended the arrest of five Left-wing activists in multi-state raids a day before saying the action was based on “proof” about their “links with the Naxal movement”.

Maharashtra minister of state for Home Deepak Kesarkar said all procedures were followed before conducting the raids against the activists.

Pune police on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested 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 Elgar Parishad event held in Pune on December 31 last year, which had allegedly triggered violence between Dalits and upper caste groups at Koregaon Bhima village in the district.

“It is due to their links with naxal movements that they have been arrested. If there was no evidence, we would not have taken the action. We have followed the procedures before conducting raids against these naxal activists,” Kesarkar said.

“Actions are not taken to please anyone. Unless we had proofs, we would not have conducted the raids,” he added.

The minister said Naxals were fighting a war against India. “It is not wrong to be Left wing, but it is wrong to be a Left wing extremist,” he said.

Kesarkar said Professor Saibaba (Delhi University professor arrested in 2014 for alleged links with Maoists) is a classic example of intellectuals misusing their brains against the country. The Naxal movement is banned in the country and nobody should sympathise with it, he added.

On the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) letter to the Maharashtra government seeking information about the operation, he said, “It is the government’s duty to respond to the NHRC letter. It is a routine procedure. It does not necessarily mean we are doing anything wrong.”

When asked about the link of Elgar Parishad conclave with the violence at Koregaon Bhima village a day after the event, Kesarkar said, “A judicial commission has been set up to look into the matter. Let it come up with its report. If any links are established, we will take appropriate action against the organisers of Parishad.”

“We have also arrested Milind Ekbote (a right-wing leader and prime accused in the Koregaon-Bhima violence) for his alleged links to violence at Koregaon Bhima. We should not be criticised that we are targeting Left wing people alone,” he said.

“Earlier, tribals were the target of Left-wing extremists. Now, tribals are prospering through the state government’s policies, hence the Naxalites are targeting the unemployed urban youth,” he said.

First Published: Aug 29, 2018 17:03 IST