Countrywide raids on and arrests of journalist, activists, human rights lawyer

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In a coordinated conducted on Tuesday at eight locations across five states, the police arrested noted human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj in connection with an alleged plot assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sudha Bharadwaj

The raids were conducted by police teams in Maharashtra, Goa, Telangana, Delhi and Jharkhand, reported PTI. A report by India Today said that houses of Arun Ferreira, Susan Abraham and Vernon Gonsalvez in Mumbai, Anand Teltumbde in Goa, Stalin Swamy in Jharkhand, and Gautam Navlakha and Sudha Bhardwaj in Delhi were raided. Activist Varavara Rao was arrested in Hyderabad, reported ANI.

Bharadwaj was arrested from her Delhi residence the cops raided her Badarpur residence and confiscated her laptop, journal, storage devices and mobile phones. The police reportedly also requested access to her email IDs and social media accounts, reported Firstpost website.

Among other arrested are journalist and civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha, who has been taken into custody in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence in December last year. Varavara Rao, activist and poet, was arrested in Hyderabad for his alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Activists Arun Fereira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested from Thane and Mumbai respectively.

These arrests evoked angry reactions on social media with historians and intellectuals demanding an immediate intervention of the Supreme Court in the blatant misuse of power by the current government at the Centre. Historian Ram Guha tweeted, “This is absolutely chilling. The Supreme Court must intervene to stop this persecution and harassment of independent voices. Sudha Bharadwaj is as far from violence and illegality as Amit Shah is close to those things.”

Booker-prize winning author, Arundhati Roy said, “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.” Scroll website quoted her as saying, “It is as close to a declaration of an Emergency as we will ever get.”

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan wrote, “Getting news that Pune police have raided/arrested among the finest Human rights activists&dissenting voices, such as Sudha Bharadwaj (a human rights lawyer), Gautam Navlakha (Former Pres of PUDR), Fr Stan Swamy (a human rights activist) & Ors. Fascist fangs are now openly bared.”

Activist Kavita Krishnan wrote, “Under the Modi regime’s undeclared Emergency, rights activists and dissenters are either shot at, killed, or raided, arrested and jailed. The arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao follow on the heels of the murderous attack on Umar Khalid.”

Late in the evening, the advocates of Bharadwaj raised an alarm, saying she had not been kept under house arrest as ordered by a court. The court, according to NDTV, had granted her relief for three days, saying she could not be taken to Pune. After her lawyers said they would move court, Ms Bhardwaj was brought back to the magistrate’s home in a police car and was taken inside for a hearing on the next steps. The magistrate, at 1 am, asked the police to comply with the high court order and keep her under house arrest till August 30.

Bharadwaj’s arrest comes little over a month after she slammed the founder of Republic TV, Arnab Goswami, for its ‘false, malicious and defamatory allegations against’ her. Bharadwaj, who is also a visiting professor at National Law University Delhi, had issued a public statement informing how Goswami had aired a programme on his channel, containing ‘a long list of ridiculous, scurrilous, false and completely unsubstantiated allegations against’ her.

Bharadwaj, who’s also the National Secretary of an NGO, Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, wrote, “I have been informed that Republic TV aired a programme on 4 July 2018, presented by anchor and MD Arnab Goswami as “Super Exclusive Breaking News.”

“The programme, which is being repeatedly shown, contains a long list of ridiculous, scurrilous, false and completely unsubstantiated allegations against me. Goswami has claimed that I have written a letter (identifying myself as “Comrade Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj”) to a Maoist – one “Comrade Prakash” – stating that a “Kashmir like situation” has to be created. I am also accused of having received money from Maoists. I am also said to have confirmed that various advocates, some of whom I know as excellent human rights lawyers and others whom I do not know at all, had some sort of Maoist link.”

On 4 July, the Republic TV sensationally announced that it had accessed a letter written by Bharadwaj, who allegedly wrote to one Gautam Navlakha, who according to the channel had some Kashmiri separatist leaders.  Calling her as part of ‘Urban Naxals’ group, the channel sought to establish a link to the imaginary threats of assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Bharadwaj wrote, “I firmly and categorically deny that the letter referred to by Goswami if at all such a document exists has never been written by me. I firmly refute all the allegations that Republic TV has made against me, defaming me, causing me professional and personal injury. In its programme, Republic TV has not revealed the source of such a letter. I find it curious that a document purporting to contain evidence of such serious crimes should first surface in the studio of Arnab Goswami.”

 

LIVE UPDATES;

  • Arundhati Roy reacts to raids and arrests: “It is as close to a declaration of an Emergency as we will ever get,”
  • Pune Police has got transit remand till 30 August of journalist Gautam Navlakha, reports ANI
  • Amnesty India tweets, “The government should protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear.”
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