NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: In a massive crackdown police teams have raided the residences of several rights activists, priests, lawyers and writers in Hyderabad, Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi. Well reputed lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj has been arrested this morning and charged under Sections of the Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act.

Bharadwaj, who had only recently written a strong letter of protest against what she said was character vilification by Republic RV, was taken to the Haryana police station by a posse of Pune police. She, according to sources, will be taken to Pune soon. All her electronic devices including laptop, mobile phone have been seized and sources said there was concern that her social media accounts had been taken over by the police as well. Along with a diary with several empty pages.

Vernon Gonsalves has also been arrested. Raids have been carried out at the homes of Father Stan Swamy, writer Anand Teltumbde, activist and writer Gautam Navlakha, Susan Abrahan and others. Vara Vara Rao’s daughter Anala’s residence was also raided. Relatives of those raided are not even aware of the charges, with speculation that the Bhima Koregaon stir of last January is responsible for this crackdown with the Maharashtra police ‘investigation’ allegedly confirming ‘links’.

The crackdown has been wide, with journalist Sudhir Dahwale, Rona Wilson, academic Shoma Sena, human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling amongst those arrested. There is no official confirmation of the raids or the arrests, and silence about the reasons.

Lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj was attacked by Republic TV in July with anchor Arnab Goswami alleging that she was a Maoist. At that time she issued a public statement making it clear, “I firmly refute all the allegations that the Republic TV has made against me, defaming me, causing me professional and personal injury. In its programme, the 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.

I have been a dedicated trade unionist since the past 30 years, working in the organisation of the late legendary Shankar Guha Niyogi, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, in the working class shanties of Dalli Rajhara and Bhilai, and hundreds of workers are witness to the fact.

As a part of my work as a trade unionist I became a lawyer in the year 2000 since when I have fought scores of cases of workers, farmers, adivasis and poor people in the fields of labour, land acquisition, forest rights and environmental rights. Since the year 2007 I am practising in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur and was nominated by the High Court to be a member of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority.

In the last year I have been teaching at the National Law University Delhi in the capacity of a Visiting Professor, where I offered a seminar course on tribal rights and land acquisition; and a part of the regular course on law and poverty. As a part of the programme of the Delhi Judicial Academy, I addressed the presiding officers of labour courts from Sri Lanka. My pro-people positions and work as a human rights lawyer are a matter of public record. I am perfectly aware that they stand in direct opposition to the views so loudly and frequently expressed by Arnab Goswami and Republic TV.

In my opinion the present malicious, motivated and fabricated attack on me is because I recently addressed a press conference in Delhi to condemn the arrest on June 6 of Advocate Surendra Gadling. The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), an organisation of lawyers has also strongly taken up the issue of other lawyers such as Advocate Chandrashekhar of Bhim Army and Advocate Vachinathan arrested after the Sterlite firing.

It is clear that in targeting such lawyers, the state is trying to silence those who stand for the democratic rights of citizens. The state strategy is to create a chilling effect and deny equitable access to the legal system. Also very recently the IAPL had organised a fact finding into the difficulties faced by lawyers in Kashmir.”

More details are awaited of the crackdown.