People’s Union for Civil Liberties condemns NIA raids in Telugu states, demands closure of FIR

The PUCL termed the searches 'a witchhunt' on people who have been working for the benefit of the 'marginalised and the downtrodden'.

BySouth First Desk

Published Oct 05, 2023 | 1:47 PMUpdatedOct 05, 2023 | 1:47 PM

A screengrab of the NIA raids at the house of advocate D Suresh Kumar in Telangana. (Supplied)

Human-rights body People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has released a statement condemning the National Investigation Agency (NIA) searches on over 60 locations in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on 2 October.

According to the NIA, the searches were conducted in connection with the Munchingiputtu CPI (Maoist) conspiracy case.

The PUCL termed the searches “a witchhunt” on people who have been working for the benefit of the “marginalised and the downtrodden” in the two Telugu states.

The raids were also conducted at the residences of seven of the Andhra Pradesh State Committee of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) functionaries.

The NIA also arrested one person, identified as Chandra Narasimhulu, a state Executive Committee member of Pragathiseela Karmika Samaky (PKS).

The HRF called the raids an exercise that sought to intimidate human rights defenders and impede their work.

Also read: Human Rights Forum condemns NIA raids in Telugu states

Release demanded

In the statement dated 3 October, the PUCL also demanded the release of all the arrested people in the case and also the electronic gadgets and documents seized from several people. It also demanded the closure of the FIR in the Munchingput conspiracy case.

It also claimed that the NIA investigation in connection with the Munchingput conspiracy case of 23 November, 2020, and the following raids and searches, including the 2 October incident did not get them any evidence against the activists.

“During the last 2.5 years, the investigations did not result in gathering any incriminatory evidence — documents or materials — against any of the accused persons. In fact, the Special Court under the UAPA Act which granted bail to the accused passed scathing comments on the nature of allegations and evidence gathered, while granting bail.” PUCL said in the statement.

The statement also alleged that the fabricated nature of the FIR in the case, regarding an allegation against HRF activist VS Krishna that HRF had influenced the Vakpally rape survivors (all young Adivasi women) to falsely depose against Special Forces Policemen charged with their rape, following high court and Supreme Court orders.

“It is certainly not a crime to provide food and shelter to Adivasi women witnesses who have come from remote areas to depose in a criminal trial mandated by the law. It is because of this solidarity and sustained rights activism that the police are now seeking to intimidate VS Krishna in what we believe to be a clear case of vindictiveness,” said the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 2012 and the Supreme Court in 2017, according to the statement.

‘Timing is suspicious

It further said: “It is in this same obviously false and fabricated UAPA case that the NIA along with the AP and Telangana state police have conducted simultaneous raids in over 60 places. The timing and manner of conducting the raids is suspect and supports the suspicion that the raids have been stage managed by the NIA to intimidate, threaten and silence rights defenders, grass roots activists, media persons and concerned citizens from seeking accountability, criticising or questioning the government and the political executive.”

Demanding to close the FIR in the Munchingput conspiracy case, PUCL said: “The ever present possibility of arrest by the NIA not only robs the peace of mind of the activists and their families, but also takes away their dignity and democratic rights. This is against the tenets of constitutional democracy and the right to life with dignity.”

The search operation was conducted at the residences of HRF AP President UG Srinivasulu in Adoni, state General Secretary Y Rajesh in Amalapuram, state Vice-President KV Jagannadha Rao in Srikakulam, state Vice-President S Abdul Rasool in Anantapuramu, state Secretary UM Devendra Babu in Yemmiganur, HRF state Executive Committee member K Sudha in Visakhapatnam, and HRF AP & TS Coordination committee member A Chandrasekhar in Anantapuramu.

The NIA also searched the residences of human rights activists associated with organisations such as Civil Liberties Committee (CLC), Amarula Bandhu Mitrula Sangham (ABMS), Chaitanya Mahila Sangham (CMS), Kula Nirmulana Porata Samithi (KNPS), Patriotic Democratic Movement (PDM), Pragathiseela Karmika Samakya (PKS), Praja Kala Mandali (PKM), Revolutionary Writers Association (RWA) or Viplava Rachayitala Sangam (VIRASAM), Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), and the Indian Association of Peoples Lawyers (IAPL).

Also read: Civil rights group condemns NIA searches in AP, Telangana

Background of the case

The conspiracy case pertained to the arrest of a journalist, Pangi Naganna, allegedly with Maoist materials from Andhra Pradesh’s Alluri Sitaramaraju (ASR) district in November 2020. He was allegedly a Maoist courier.

Besides arresting Narasimhulu, the NIA reportedly seized a pistol and 14 rounds of ammunition. Cash to the tune of ₹13 lakh was seized from a location in the Kadapa district, while Maoist literature and documents were seized from other locations.

The NIA said that investigations revealed that leaders and members of these frontal organisations were extending support to the CPI (Maoist).

The case was initially registered by the Munchingiputtu Police of the Alluri Sitaramaraju district on 23 November 2020, based on information relating to the movement of Maoists and the transportation of Maoist literature in the Munchingiputtu area.

The police had intercepted journalist Naganna, while he was carrying Maoist literature, medicines, a red banner cloth, electrical wire bundles, Nippo batteries, and pamphlets, reportedly to hand over to Maoist cadres.

The frontal organisation handed over the materials to the journalist, the NIA said.

The NIA had filed a charge sheet against seven accused before a special court in Vijayawada on 21 May 2021. Of these seven, five belonged to frontal organisations — ABMS, CMS, PDM, PKS, and PKM.