Advocate V Raghunath and activist VS Krishna
Advocate V Raghunath and activist VS Krishna

Civil rights activists condemn NIA raids in Telangana and Andhra

The NIA claimed to have seized Maoist literature and weapons like machetes, axes and sickles in the searches conducted.

For over 10 hours on Wednesday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted searches at the residences of 30 civil rights activists based in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Following this, the central agency seized books, storage devices and other documents, and the activists were summoned to the NIA office for further examination. In a statement, the NIA said it had seized sickles, axes, machetes, CPI (Maoist) flags, “incriminating documents”, handwritten letters of CPI (Maoist) party literature, and CPI (Maoist) press notes.

The searches were conducted at the residences of Civil Liberties Committee (CLC) General Secretary advocate V Raghunath, Praja Kala Mandali President John, revolutionary singer Dappu Ramesh, Virasam member Varalaxmi, Human Rights Forum (HRF) Telangana and AP co-ordination committee member VS Krishna, among others, for their alleged association with Maoists.

The searches were conducted as part of the Munchingiputtu case investigation, which the NIA has taken over. The NIA registered a FIR regarding this on March 7, 2021.

In the case, Pangi Naganna, a journalist alleged to be a Maoist by the Visakhapatnam police, was arrested in November last year. Subsequently, the police had filed a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Arms Act, and several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Police claimed that Naganna was a Maoist ‘courier’ and acted as a bridge between civil rights organisations and the Maoist party. Naganna allegedly confessed to the police that he was facilitating meetings between the alleged Maoist frontal organisations and the outlawed Maoist party.

At VS Krishna’s residence, the searches were conducted from 5.30 pm to 2.30 am on Thursday. An associate of Krishna told TNM that the agencies were specifically looking for the words ‘Gadchiroli’, ‘Chhattisgarh’, etc in the books and documents.

Speaking to TNM, Krishna said, “Then they took away my hard disk, mobile phone, books and other papers. And I was called to their camp office in Vizag along with others. They just asked me basic questions.” Krishna said that he has been asked to come again on Friday.

“For the past three years I have been describing the NIA as a bandicoot organisation, a wolf pack that has been abducting writers and artists. That wolf pack came knocking at my house, too. This attack is not just on me. This is what the NIA is doing across the country,” alleged poet Phani, a member of Virasam.

The NIA said that in the searches conducted in 31 locations across eight districts of Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam, Guntur, Prakasam, Srikakulam, Kurnool, Krishna, East Godavari and Kadapa) and four districts of Telangana (Ranga Reddy, Hyderabad, Medchal-Malkajgiri and Medak), they seized 40 mobile phones, 44 SIM cards, 70 storage devices like hard disks, micro SD cards and flash cards, 184 CDs/DVDs, 19 pen drives, tabs and audio recorders. They also said that they recovered Rs 10 lakh in cash from one accused as well as sickles, axes, machetes besides CPI (Maoist) flags, a number of “incriminating documents” and handwritten letters of CPI (Maoist) party literature.

So far six accused in the case, including Pangi Naganna, Anduluri Annapurna, Jangarla Koteswar Rao, Manukonda Srinivasa Rao, Rela Rajeswari and Boppudi Anjamma, have been arrested.

Revoke NIA and UAPA

Likening the raids against the civil rights activists in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to the Bhima Koregaon case, the CLC on Thursday demanded revoking of the draconian UAPA, the NIA, and withdrawal of the ‘false’ cases against the activists.

Addressing the media in Hyderabad, G Laxman, CLC president, condemned the raids and said, “NIA has been targeting and arresting lawyers, Dalits, poets, artists across the country for the past three years. The NIA is an unconstitutional body. It has become a weapon to suppress the voices who are defending the rights of the people. It has become a weapon for the BJP. Under the BJP regime, intolerance has increased enormously. It’s not accepting or tolerating any form of dissent against its policies or workings.”

Asserting that CLC would stand by the rights of the people, Laxman added, “It’s our primary duty to defend the rights enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution gives us the right to agitate.”

Jalla Lingaiah, CLC secretary, said that the raids have terrorised both the states. Demanding revocation of the UAPA, he said that if a person is booked under UAPA proving their innocence is almost impossible. He further alleged that the Visakhapatnam Rural police had framed Naganna for filming the police harassing Adivasis by threatening to strip them naked if they did not disclose Maoist hideouts.

Similarly, HRF in a statement alleged that the police had forced a false confession from Naganna to frame Krishna, who had provided legal help to the rape survivors in the Vakapalli case. “For a long time, the police were angry with Krishna for his role in standing with the Adivasi women who testified against the police,” HRF said.

In the Vakapalli rape incident, which took place in 2007, 13 Greyhounds personnel raided the Vakapalli hamlet, a tribal agency area under Nurmati panchayat in Visakhapatnam, and allegedly raped 11 Adivasi women belonging to the Kondh tribe (categorised as Scheduled Tribe).

Denying any association with Maoists, HRF said that the case will not stand in the court of law. “Using UAPA and involving NIA shows the state and Union government nexus. In cases that won’t stand scrutiny of the law, the state is sensationalising them by involving the NIA. It is becoming evident that these acts are done to stifle the voices of rights activists,” HRF said.

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