Varavara Rao to Sudha Bhardwaj, who are the activists arrested over alleged Maoist links
Maharashtra police on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least four of them for suspected Maoist links.Updated: Aug 28, 2018 22:28 IST
Maharashtra police on Tuesday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested at least four of them for suspected Maoist links.
Near simultaneous searches were carried out at the residences of prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha in New Delhi.
Subsequently, Rao, Bhardwaj and Ferreira were arrested. Although Navlakha was also arrested, the Delhi high court ordered police not to take him out of the national capital at least until tomorrow.
According to unconfirmed reports, others whose residences were raided are Susan Abraham, Kranthi Tekula, Father Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Anand Teltumbde in Goa.
The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalits and upper caste Peshwas at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year.
Here are their brief profiles:
Rao has been writing poetry since 1957. Founder member of Virasam (Revolutionary Writers’ Association), he was arrested in October 1973 under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). He was released and arrested on more than one occasions between 1975 and 1986 in different cases, including the 1986 Ramnagar conspiracy case in which he was acquitted in 2003 after 17 years.
Rao was again arrested on 19 August 2005 under the AP Public Security Act and sent to Chanchalguda Central Prison in Hyderabad. The case was struck down under the Public Security Act on 31 March 2006 and Rao obtained bails in all other cases.
An activist based in Mumbai, Ferreira was claimed to be the leader of the propaganda and communications wing of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2007. He was acquitted of all charges in 2014. In his book, Colours of the Cage: A Prison Memoir, published the same year, Ferreira, recounted the details of his imprisonment of nearly five years.
Bhardwaj is best known for her work in Chhattisgarh, where she has lived for 29 years and fought for the rights of mine workers in Bhilai, as a member of late Shankar Guha Niyogi’s Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. She began working with the Mukti Morcha in 1986, after witnessing the abysmal working conditions of labourers in West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh during her stint as a student in IIT Kanpur.
A civil rights activist and lawyer, Bharadwaj has also been fighting against land acquisition, and is currently the general secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
Abraham, a civil rights lawyer, represented many of those arrested during the June raids by the police in connection with the Elgar Parishad event. The wife of activist Vernon Gonzalves, Abraham was born in Kerala to schoolteacher parents and studied in Zambia. She has been part of protests against demonetisation, fake encounters and for workers and women’s rights.
She has written extensively against the rigourous sentences given to Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, activist Prashant Rahi among others, calling it “misuse of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act”. Her name can be seen in the credits of a film, Court, in which she guided filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane through the intricacies of law.
A blog run by his friends describe Vernon Gonzalves as a “leader of the Altar Boys” and “a strong believer of justice, equality & freedom”. A gold medallist from Mumbai University and a former lecturer at Ruparel College and HR College, Gonzalves, security agencies allege, was an ex-central committee member and former secretary of the Maharashtra state committee of Maoists. He was charged in around 20 cases and has been acquitted due to lack of evidence, after serving six years in jail.
Navlakha has been associated with People’s Union for Democratic Rights and is a Delhi-based journalist. He is also an editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly. He, along with Sudha Bharadwaj, demanded repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. They said, the Act, passed to regulate the activities of unlawful organisations, has been used by the government to curb extremist activities as opposed to unlawful activities. Navlakha, a frequent traveller to Kashmir Valley for the last two decades, has also written extensively about alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.
An engineer, MBA and former CEO, Teltumbde is also a leading scholar and activist for Dalit rights. He has authored books on people’s movement particularly about leftist agitations and Dalit rights struggles. He also has a doctorate in cybernetics from Mumbai University. It is no coincidence that he has often argued that reservation for Dalits has, in fact, stigmatised them and consecrated caste in India’s polity.
Father Stan Swamy
Human rights activist Father Stan Swamy founded the Vistapan Virodhi Janvikash Andolan (VVJA), a platform that advocates the rights of indigenous people including Adivasis and Dalits. Swamy was among the 20 people against whom a sedition case was filed in July this year, for posting statements against the Jharkhand government for inciting tension over the Pathalgadi movement.
Tekula is a journalist with Namaste Telangana.