Human Rights Forum condemns NIA raids in Telugu states; says claim of links to Maoists is ‘plain canard’

NIA searched over 60 locations in connection with the Munchingiputtu CPI (Maoist) conspiracy case. It also arrested a PKS member.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Oct 03, 2023 | 1:33 PMUpdatedOct 03, 2023 | 1:33 PM

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

The Andhra Pradesh State Committee of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) condemned the raids conducted at the residences of seven of its functionaries on the morning of Monday, 2 October, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

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

On Monday, the NIA carried out searches at over 60 locations in Andhra as well as Telangana. The searches were conducted in connection with the Munchingiputtu CPI (Maoist) conspiracy case.

The NIA arrested one person and reportedly seized a sidearm, ammunition, cash, and “incriminating material”.

Also read: Civil rights group condemns NIA searches at over 60 locations

Seizure without cloned copies

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 HRF, which noted that NIA searches were in order to recover “incriminating documents and materials” pertaining to the 2020 case’s investigation, claimed that no such material was found at the residence premises of its seven functionaries.

“These raids have only facilitated the NIA personnel to confiscate the mobile phones of five HRF functionaries as well as other electronic equipment like hard drives, a laptop, and some literature in a roughly six-hour search. Seizure of electronic devices, including mobiles, without even providing cloned copies to the owners results in immediate lack of access to precious work-related material and contacts. It amounts to an overwhelming loss,” the HRF said.

It added, “When asked when these devices would be returned, the NIA officials said that if no incriminating material is found, they could be claimed from the NIA branch office in Hyderabad. This might take forever.”

It called the confiscation of the devices a stunning dispossession of valuable property of the functionaries as well as depriving them of their right to livelihood, privacy, and human dignity.

Also read: IB, Cyberabad police arrest CPI (Maoist) leader Sanjoy Deepak Rao

‘Concerned about evidence-tampering’

Noting that the confiscation of electronic devices is an infringement of Constitutional rights, the HRF expressed  concerns of “potential evidence-tampering of electronic data”.

“Clearly, a sound legal framework and requisite guidelines that are in tune with Constitutional principles are much required in this area,” the HRF said.

It noted that the NIA’s description of the HRF as a “front organisation of the Maoists” in its press statement is a “plain canard”.

“HRF is not an appendage of the Maoists or any other political patty. Formed on 11 October, 1998, HRF turned 25 this month. We shall persist in spreading a human rights culture in society with the certitude that a broad-based and truly independent human rights movement is desirable and possible,” it said.

Also read: NIA charge sheet against three Chaithanya Mahila Sangham activists

NIA, a faithful instrument of Union govt

The HRF alleged that the NIA is widely perceived as a faithful instrument of the “ruling dispensation” — the Union government — to stifle dissent.

“The real purpose of its baseless accusations and investigations is to intimidate, isolate, and shame human rights activists into silence. It is part of a concerted attempt to diminish and delegitimise the very notion of human rights in the public eye. The intention is to harass those critical of the political establishment’s retrograde policies and practices,” the HRF claimed.

The rights organisation demanded that the NIA  should “desist from such trivialisation of the law and stop attempts to harass human rights activists.”

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: 7 Maoists from Telangana named as accused in police ambush case

Pistol, ammo seized

The NIA also arrested one person. The arrested man has been identified as Chandra Narasimhulu, a state Executive Committee member of PKS. He was picked up from Andhra Pradesh’s Sri Satya Sai district.

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).

Background on the case

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.