New Delhi: Five activists with alleged Maoist links were arrested on Tuesday after sweeping raids across six cities by the Pune police. The arrests were in connection with Koregaon Bhima violence in January this year, in which Dalit activists had clashed with upper-caste Marathas, the police said.
Those arrested include, activist Varavara Rao, Sudha Bhardwaj, Arun Fereira, Gautam
Navlakha and Venon Gonsalves. Raids were conducted at the homes of nine activists
in Delhi, Faridabad, Goa, Mumbai, Ranchi and Hyderabad. The activists have
approached the court against the arrests.
Academics and authors have termed the arrests as “absolutely chilling” and “virtual
declaration of emergency”. “Fascist fangs are now openly bared,” tweeted lawyer
Varavara Rao, activist and poet, was arrested for his alleged involvement in a plot
to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his family said. Mr Rao’s name had
cropped up in a letter seized by the police during searches at the premises of one
of the five people arrested in June in connection with the Elgar Parishad event on
December 31 last year to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle in
While human rights lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj was picked up from Faridabad, Varavara Rao
was arrested in Hyderabad. Activists Arun Fereira and Venon Gonsalves have been
arrested from Thane and Mumbai. The Delhi High Court has temporarily stayed
activist Gautam Navlakha’s transit remand to Pune.
Members of the Dalit community from all over Maharashtra had gathered in Koregaon
Bhima, near Pune, to celebrate what they call their victory over Maratha Peshwas.
This year was the 200th anniversary of “Vijay Diwas” that attracted a three lakh-
Dalit thinkers and activists consider it as a victory of the oppressed over the
upper-caste establishment of the Marathas. Dalit leader and Gujarat lawmaker
Jignesh Mewani had attended the event.
However, ‘Right wing’ groups had reportedly opposed the Dalit celebrations saying
they cannot observe a ‘British’ victory. Clashes between ‘right-wing’ groups and
Dalits who had congregated there turned violent.
The violence spread to Mumbai and other cities in the next three days. One person
died and several were injured in the violence. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had
ordered a probe and warned that there is no place for casteist violence in
Maharashtra which is a progressive state.