The National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided the homes of more than a dozen civil rights activists in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on Wednesday.
The operation came almost two years after similar raids in various parts of the country in the wake of the Bhima Koregaon episode in Maharashtra.
Senior Left leader Rama Krishna’s wife Padma, the Civil Liberties Committee’s (CVC) Telangana unit leader and senior advocate V Raghunath, Human Rights Forum coordinator VS Krishna, folk artist Dappu Ramesh, writer and CVC member Chiluka Chandrasekhar, and activists Padam, KS Chalan, Varalakshmi and Pinakapani were among those targeted.
Sources said the raids followed the arrest of a suspected Maoist sympathiser and courier, Pangi Naganna, in Munchingput tribal area of Visakhapatnam in November 2020. The police said revolutionary literature and some other material were recovered from Pangi Naganna’s possession. The police had filed a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging or attempting to wage war), 121A (conspiracy to commit offences), 143 (unlawful assembly), 144 (using deadly weapons to commit an offence) and 124A (sedition). About 64 people were named as accused or suspects. The case was transferred to the NIA’s Hyderabad unit in March. The agency registered an FIR on March 7.
Raghunath said, “The NIA says I am arguing for Maoists in the courts. As an advocate, it is my ethical responsibility to argue for people when they approach me for service. The other contention is reading revolutionary literature. The Supreme Court made it clear at least in two cases that reading literature is not wrong. We will take the search details to the notice of the court.”
Raghunath is a senior advocate with over two decades of practice.
Varalakshmi said she would approach the courts for return of her mobile phone and computer, which were seized by the NIA.
Padma said the NIA officials took some books from her house. She left the Maoist party about 13 years ago and works as a part-time tailor.
The NIA search order read: “It has been made to appear to me that there is strong likelihood of getting incriminating evidence against Vasireddy Krishna… which is essential to the enquiry now being made in the said offences.”
Krishna was actively involved in fighting for the rights of 11 Adivasi women who were allegedly raped by police in Vakapalli, in Visakhapatnam district, in August 2007.
The case began to be heard in a special court in Visakhapatnam only in August 2018, following a directive from the Supreme Court.
The police charged Krishna with being a “Maoist” and coercing the rape survivors into “falsely testifying” against the police personnel.