Multiple police teams raided the homes of several activists and lawyers across India on Tuesday morning in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence. Several activists, including Sudha Bharadwaj, Anand Teltumbde and Surendra Gadling, have also reportedly been taken into custody for alleged links to Maoists.
Police carried out raids at the homes of activists, lawyers, writers and journalists in Delhi, Mumbai, Ranchi, Goa and Hyderabad. According to a source, the raids began early on Tuesday morning.
Pune police have quizzed activists Arun Ferreira, Susan Abrahams and Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai.
Sources say that the order for the raids came from Swargate police station in Pune. However, an inspector at the station denied knowledge about the same when contacted by News18.
Bharadwaj has been charged under sections 153a (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc.), 505 (Statements conducing to public mischief), 117 (Abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than ten persons) and 120 (Concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code.
Sources said Pune crime branch has detained an advocate from Charai in Thane. Marxist writer and journalist Varavara Rao has also been taken under custody in Hyderabad.
Pune Police have declined to officially comment on the nationwide raids. “I can’t comment anything at this moment,” said Dr Bachchan Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Zone 2, Pune, under which Swargate police station falls.
Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar targeted the central government for the raids and said it is paralyzing the political system. “Those who are raising voice against this govt are NGOs. With this raid govt is trying to silence these masses,” he said.
Police also raided Ranchi-based activist Stan Swami’s house and confiscated computers, CDs, SIM cards and documents. Swamy is a prominent writer, activist and tribal rights advocate.
Reacting to the raids, Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy wrote to News18: “That the raids are taking place on the homes of lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals - instead of on those who make up lynch mobs and murder people in broad daylight tells us very clearly where India is headed. Murderers will be honoured and celebrated. Anybody who speaks up for justice or against Hindu majoritarianism is being made into a criminal. What is happening is absolutely perilous. It is in preparation for the coming elections. We cannot allow this to happen. We have to all come together. Otherwise we will lose every freedom that we cherish. It is as close to a declaration of an Emergency as we are going to get.”
Following the raids, Kavita Srivastav, a human rights activist based in Rajasthan, said, “Modi government is showing its might by raiding top human rights activists across the country.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International, a rights group, has urged the Centre to protect freedoms instead of "creating an atmosphere of fear", in response to arrests made across India in connection with the Bhima Koreagaon investigation.
"The Maharashtra police have launched raids on rights activists across the country," Amnesty India said. "This crackdown raises disturbing questions about whether these people are being targeted for their activism."
The central government, it said, "should protect people's rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly".
Amnesty also said the five people who were arrested in June in connection with the violence in Bhima Koregaon "have a history of working to protect the rights of some of Indias most marginalized people".