Hyderabad: NIA raids residence of journalist-writer Venugopal, seizes phone

NIA searches were carried out in multiple locations including Hyderabad including the house of Venugopal, nephew of Varavara Rao, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Hyderabad: NIA raids residence of journalist-writer Venugopal, seizes phone
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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday, February 8, carried out searches at the residence of Veekshanam editor N Venugopal (nephew of Varavara Rao) in Himayat Nagar, Hyderabad. After a five-hour search, the authorities also seized his mobile phone. The search was carried out in relation to the case of Sanjay Deepak Rao, an alleged member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The searches began at 5 am and concluded at 10 am. Searches were also carried out in two other locations in Hyderabad and in Kerala.

“They immediately asked me to hand over my cell phone. But I refused to give it. I told them that there is a case being heard in the Supreme Court around the legality of whether a journalist’s phone can be seized. They however insisted on handing over my phone. Expressing my protest in a written letter that a phone is a lifeline of a journalist containing several contacts, documents etc. I surrendered the phone,” Venugopal told the media following the raids.

Venugopal said that the NIA authorities searched all the books in his residence. Besides being a journalist, Venugopal is also a writer. He has written nearly 30 books and translated around 30 books. He recently translated the works of Varavara Rao in English along with poet-writer Meena Kandasamy. The book is titled Varavara Rao: A life in Poetry.

Speaking to TNM, C Vanaja, a journalist and wife of Venugopal said that the NIA officials also asked to hand over her cellphone. “But I refused to give. They said that they will just check and give it back. After this I showed my device. They glanced through the photos and other contents and gave it back.”

The Telangana police recently filed a case against 24 persons including Venugopal under sections 10, 13, 16, 17, 18, 18b, and 20 of the UAPA, section 8(1)(2) of the Telangana Public Security Act, and section 25 of the Arms Act, allegedly based on a confession statement of Sanjay Deepak Rao, who police claim is a Central Committee Member of the Maoist party. The NIA has now taken over this case.

The FIR also names  seven Malayali intellectuals: Senior journalist KP Sethunath, human rights activist CP Rasheed, Marxist intellectual K Muralidharan, CP Ismail, CP Moinuddin, Pradeep, and Varghese.  The homes of CP Rasheed and CP Ismail were also searched in Kerala.

Sethunath, a renowned journalist with more than two decades of experience, has published many critical articles on various topics ranging from human rights to development and addressed many protest meetings and people’s gatherings. He is also the editor of Malabar Journal. 

As per the alleged confession statement given by Sanjay, in 2021, he met some intellectuals from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana ‘to destabilise the Indian government through armed revolution.’ 

The FIR lists 24 names in this order: Sanjay Deepak Rao, Nambala Keshava Rao, Muppala Laxman Rao, Mallojula Venugopal Rao, Thippiri Thirupathi, Kadari Satyanarayana Reddy, Katta Ramachandra Reddy, Malla Raji Reddy, Pakka Hanumanthu, Gajarla Ravi, Modem Balakrishna, CP Moinuddin, Pradeep, Varghese, K Muralidharan, KP Sethunath, CP Ismail, CP Rasheed, Varalakshmi, Pinakapani, Gadhe Padma Kumari, N Venugopal, Narla Ravi Sharma, Nakka Narayana, and others.

In his alleged confession, Sanjay said, “On September 24, 2021, against the government, the Kabani faction had a meeting to recruit new members into the Maoist party to dethrone the government. In Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana urban areas, we got in contact with the below-mentioned important people who were members of the banned CPI Maoist party, mass and front organisations. I was in contact with them and gave instructions to carry out activities against the Indian government and how to dethrone the government through armed struggle.”

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