Court trial reveals that Telangana police filed a case under UAPA against 152 prominent human rights activists, retired professors, scholars.
The Telangana police had in August 2022 registered cases under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against human rights activist and retired University of Hyderabad (UoH) Prof G Haragopal and 151 others in the state.
They have been accused of conspiring to “take over the power of the democratically elected government at gunpoint”.
Though the Tadwai police in the Mulugu district had registered the case on 19 August, 2022, it came to light only on Thursday, 15 June, when Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) president, Chandramouli, approached the LB Nagar court in the Rangareddy district.
Based on Chandramouli’s appeal, the court directed the officials concerned to furnish all First Information Reports (FIRs) filed against him. The police presented an FIR that named 152 individuals as accused under various sections, including the UAPA.
Prominent among those named in the FIR, apart from Prof Haragopal, were Prof Padmaja Shaw of Osmania University (OU), Telangana Civil Liberties Committee President Prof Gaddam Laxman, Indian Association of People’s Lawyers’ Justice (Retd) H Suresh, activist Sudha Bhardwaj, human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling, and activist Arun Ferreira.
When South First reached out to some of those named in the FIR, they said they were unaware that they had been booked under UAPA and had received no notices from the police.
The 152 people were charged under the following sections:
The FIR, accessed by South First, revealed that the case was registered based on a complaint by Parsa police circle inspector V Shankar.
He stated that he received information about an illegal assembly of CPI Maoist party members in Telangana on 19 August, 2022.
Bade Chokka Rao, Kankanala Raji Reddy, Koyada Sambaiah, Kursam Maggu, Madakam Sannal, Kunju Veeraiah, Kovasi Ganga, Muchaki Ungal, Jamuna, Roshan, and other groups and militia members, were slated to attend the meeting.
“They were involved in various unlawful activities, including attacking government officials, destroying government property, recruiting tribal youth into the banned CPI-Maoist party, terrorising innocent people, and providing financial support to the party,” the inspector alleged.
Upon receiving this information, Shankar and a team of police officers went to Asannaguda, Ellapur in Tadvai. They reportedly encountered armed individuals dressed in olive green uniforms, who were identified as members of the banned CPI-Maoist party.
The officers ordered them to surrender, but they fled into the dense forest.
During the operation, the police reportedly discovered a meeting place of the Maoists — a plastic-covered tent. Inside, they found three kits, one set of solar panels, five water cans, seven water bottles of two liters each, two steel bags, a rope (approximately 10 metres), a knife, a stone, two black sheets, two rice bowls, two bells, two sacks, a pair of sandals, a lighter, two plastic glasses, and three umbrellas.
Prohibited Maoist literature and the names of 152 people and various organisations were also reportedly found.
The FIR said the literature mentions the active work of leaders and members of various public organisations, such as Telangana Vidhyarthi Sangam (TVS), Democratic Student Union (DSU), Telangana Raithanga Samithi (TRS), Telangana Democratic Forum, Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samiti, Praja Kala Mandali (PKM), People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), Telangana Praja Front (TPF), Civil Liberties Committee (CLC), Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), United Anti-Hindu Fascist Forces, Revolutionary Writers Association (Virasam), Democratic Teachers Forum (DTF), and Indian Association of People’s Lawyers.
The FIR added that government officials and properties were targeted based on the directives of Central Committee Member Pulluri Prasad Rao, known as Chandranna. They also recruited tribal youth into the CPI Maoist Party to terrorise innocent people and raise funds for the party.
“As per the agenda of the above-mentioned Maoist party, unknown leaders, army group members, militia group members and banned Maoist party working against the government to kill politicians, policemen and take over the power of the democratically elected government at gunpoint,” the FIR read.
Speaking to South First, Prof Haragopal, a retired dean of the School of Social Science at the University of Hyderabad, said he was unaware of the FIR until it surfaced on Thursday. He has been named as the 42nd accused.
“No, we had no prior knowledge. This came as a surprise to us. We were not aware of it 10 months ago. It came up in some other cases. The court inquired about the number of cases against him (Chandramouli), and the police revealed that he has been booked in other cases. That’s when this particular case involving 152 people came to light,” Prof Haragopal said.
He further said that he has not received any summons or notices from the police.
Meanwhile, Prof Padmaja Shaw, who was a professor of journalism at Osmania University in Hyderabad, said she, too, was unaware of the case.
“None of us who have been implicated had any knowledge about this particular case against us. Previously, I had only read about the UAPA and did not know how people navigate through such legal matters. We are trying to figure out how to proceed,” Prof Shaw, the 41st accused, told South First.
“This is the collapse of the democratic system. It is distressing to witness cases being filed under the draconian UAPA against individuals who are simply expressing their dissent and standing up for democratic values. It feels like a deliberate targeting of those who voice their concerns in the public domain,” she added.
On their plans, Prof Haragopal shared that they would be holding a meeting, and their actions will be determined based on the decisions made at the meeting.
“This situation signifies the breakdown of democracy, Constitutional values, and the essence of the freedom struggle. Whether we are truly living in a democratic society or not, is the crucial question now,” he said,
Prof Haragopal criticised the abuse of arbitrary power by the state against the accused. He emphasised that they all have some social concerns and represent moral forces in society.
He expressed gratitude for the support received from the community, as people have shown concern for him and reached out to him.