A day after the Pune police swooped down on revolutionary writer Varavara Rao’s residence and arrested him for allegedly conspiring to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his family members, whose houses were also raided, alleged that the police had questioned them on why they owned books about Karl Marx, Mao, and Dalits. The police also allegedly asked the academics why they listened to songs of balladeer Gaddar.
After the raids on Tuesday, an emotional Satyanarayana – an academic and a son-in-law of arrested activist Varavara Rao – had a meltdown at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad, where he teaches. Explaining their ordeal, Satyanarayana had said, “They have destroyed 30 years of my academic life in five minutes. They asked me – Why are you reading Marx, why are you reading Mao? Why do you have Gaddar songs? Why are you being an intellectual when you get so much money?”
Police searched his house for more than five hours to find any incriminating material, Satyanarayana said. He further alleged that they treated him like a criminal and humiliated him. He said that police had seized all electronic devices including books.
Similarly, journalist KV Kurmanath from The Hindu – also a son-in-law of Varavara Rao – too, alleged that the police asked several times as to what sort of books he had in his shelf.
“They didn’t understand Telugu, I had numerous Telugu books. When they pointed at one book and asked me what it is about, I told them it’s a book about Telangana martyrs. But the Telangana police who accompanied them told them that the book was written by a Maoist,” he told TNM.
“They also specifically asked about books about Dalit. I had four books about Dalits, one of which is Dalita Kathalu – a compilation of Telugu Dalit short stories. The Telangana police acted horribly, they screened all these books and showed them to Pune police as if it is a crime to read books about Dalits,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Pune police conducted simultaneous searches in seven places – Mumbai, Thane, Hyderabad, Goa, Faridabad, Delhi and Ranchi – at residences of writers and civil rights activists, to find evidence pertaining an alleged assassination plot of the PM.
Following the raid, five activists – P Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha – were arrested.
These arrests led to wide outrage on social media and protests in several cities, including Hyderabad.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court directed that the five human rights should be kept under house arrest, and not be put in jail till the next date of hearing, which is September 6. An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was hearing a petition by eminent historian Romila Thapar and four others challenging the arrests. Taking a dim view of the crackdown, Justice DY Chandrachud said, “Dissent is a safety valve of democracy. If it is not allowed, the pressure cooker will burst.”