File photo of Maharashtra Police. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Pune Police raided the homes and offices of activists in five states on Tuesday, arresting five. The arrests were made over the violence in Bhima Koregaon earlier this year.
The arrested included poet Varavara Rao, who was arrested from his home in Hyderabad.
The lawyer and trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested from Faridabad in Haryana. Her home and office in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh were also raided.
"A team of 10 people came today morning. They didn't have a search warrant but were carrying another document. They checked our mobile phones and laptops and took all passwords," Bharadwaj's daughter Maaysha told ANI.
The activists Arun Fereira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested from Mumbai, as was civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha from Delhi.
ANI quoted sources as saying all five have been booked under sections 153A, 505(1)B, 117, 120B, 13, 16, 18, 20, 38, 39, 40 and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
"This is a brazen attack on democratic rights. We are demanding that all the cases against these people be withdrawn and they be released forthwith," CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat said.
This is a brazen attack on democratic rights. We are demanding that all the cases against these people be withdrawn and they be released forthwith: CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat on raids and arrests across the country in connection with #BhimaKoregaon violence case pic.twitter.com/rocy4ldhfA— ANI (@ANI) August 28, 2018
#BhimaKoregaon Raids were conducted at Mumbai, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Faridabad, Delhi and Thane, today. Stan Swamy from Ranchi was not arrested, only search was conducted at his residential premises: Sources— ANI (@ANI) August 28, 2018
News reports meanwhile said Varavara Rao was arrested over the alleged plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Varavara Rao's name had figured in a letter the Pune Police said they had found after the violence in Bhima Koregaon in January this year. Pune Police claimed the letter mentioned a plot to kill Prime Minister Modi.
The Battle of Koregaon was fought on January 1, 1818 between the British East India Company and the Peshwas.
The Dalits commemorate the British victory over the Peshwas because the English employed Dalit soldiers, something the Peshwas (who were Brahmin) did not. The commemoration of the battle is an old tradition but this year, violence broke out and one person was killed.
The blowback on social media meanwhile was swift:
As a biographer of Gandhi, I have no doubt that if the Mahatma was alive today, he would don his lawyer's robes and defend Sudha Bharadwaj in court; that is assuming the Modi Sarkar hadn't yet detained and arrested him too— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) August 28, 2018
this is a witchhunt by a government that is treating the constitution with the same disdain it treated dalits in the aftermath of bhima-koregaon. it hasn't taken long from the creation of the term, popularising it through pliant media outlets, to framing people with it. https://t.co/Jne0HW1LAX— Hartosh Singh Bal (@HartoshSinghBal) August 28, 2018
When human rights lawyers, activists are arrested, who will remain to defend the defenceless? https://t.co/U2ZGmTKNjA— naresh fernandes (@tajmahalfoxtrot) August 28, 2018
As a reporter in Chhattisgarh, would get calls from Sudha Bharadwaj on cases relating to factory workers, miners, Adivasis dispossessed from their lands. She spent a lifetime fighting pro-bono for the poor and marginalised. Unbelievable she's been detained under anti-terror law— Supriya Sharma (@sharmasupriya) August 28, 2018