NIA takes over Andhra probe against activists
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over an Andhra Pradesh police probe against 64 persons including known Adivasi, Dalit and human rights activists in southern India such as VS Krishna, Chiluka Chandrasekhar and Duddu Prabhakar for their alleged links with Maoists, people familiar with the development said. The rights activists say they have been implicated in a false case and now it has been handed over to the NIA for further harassment.
VS Krishna, Human Rights Forum (HRF) coordinator for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, has been speaking against Andhra’s anti-Naxal force – the Greyhounds – for allegedly raping 11 tribal women in 2007 in the Vakapalli incident. Andhra Pradesh State Civil Liberties Committee (CLC) general secretary Chilika Chandrasekhar (59) and Duddu Prabhakar (a prominent Dalit activist) had in 2018 condemned the arrest of Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and other activists in the Bhima-Koregaon case.
Duddu Prabhakar is currently in jail along with seven others after being arrested by Andhra Pradesh police a few months ago. In all, two cases were registered against the activists by the cops last year. The NIA has taken over the November 23 case for now.
The allegation against Krishna, according to the Andhra Pradesh police First Information Report (FIR), is that he was influencing the Vakapalli rape survivors to falsely depose against police officers.
After taking over the Andhra Pradesh police FIR, the NIA has invoked stringent sections, including those under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), sedition, criminal conspiracy and the Arms Act against the 64 accused.
The case was originally registered on November 23 last year after the arrest of a TV journalist from Visakhapatnam, Pangi Naganna (30), by the cops. It is alleged that Naganna worked as a courier for Maoists and had been passing information to the ultras inside the jungle about police movements and as instructed by Maoist leaders he was involved in instigating villagers to stop the forces from combing operations, obstruct police from entering villages, revolt against police parties and hold rallies against the government. Revolutionary Maoist literature, press notes, medicines, wire bundles and other incriminating material was said to have been recovered from his bag at the time of arrest.
During his interrogation, Naganna said he facilitated meetings between Maoists and civil society organisations, according to police officials.
It was on the basis of Naganna’s confession that the state police had named VS Krishna as well as Akkiraju Haragopal – a senior Central Committee member of the CPI (Maoist). The state police had further alleged that Krishna had assured Haragopal of spreading Maoist ideology in urban areas. Haragopal too is named as an accused in NIA case.
It is further alleged that Chilika Chandrasekhar also met Maoists, according to Naganna’s confession.
NIA officials cited above said they will question all activists to unearth their Maoist links.
HRF (on behalf of VS Krishna) said in a statement: “HRF along with many Adivasi, women’s, and mass organisations were active participants since 2007 seeking justice for the 11 Vakapalli women who were raped by special forces personnel. It is because of this solidarity and sustained rights activism that the police are now seeking to intimidate VS Krishna in what we believe to be a clear case of vindictiveness. They have gone to the extent of invoking the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which is a draconian legislation that mocks at fundamental freedoms. Such a law should have no place in a democracy.”
Chilika Chandrasekhar said: “I have been working as a civil rights activist since 1987. Never have I come across such a case in my career. For four decades, we have been interfering in state’s violence and working as voice of the voiceless. Why is state going after us? Invoking such draconian law is the way of curtailing civil liberties activities.”
In the Bhima-Koregaon case, the NIA had filed a charge sheet in October last year naming activists Gautam Navlakha, Dr Anand Teltumbde, Professor Hany Babu MT, Father Stan Swamy, among others, alleging that the accused were part of Maoists’ frontal networks to increase their influence.
Kavita Srivastava from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said: “Human rights activists are being deliberately targeted and silenced in this country. Firstly, the FIR filed on the basis of fabricated allegations was uncalled for, and now the NIA taking over the case is really sinister. That’s not acceptable. We all know what NIA has done in Bhima-Koregaon case. PUCL demands that this FIR should be quashed.”