New Delhi: Police, on Tuesday, in a first of its kind simultaneous multi-city raid on urban naxalism, arrested five rabble rousers for their alleged Maoist links. The activists were arrested in Mumbai, Thane, Hyderabad, Ranchi, Delhi and Faridabad. While petitioners Romila Thapar, Devki Jain, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande and Maya Daruwala moved the Supreme Court to question the arrests, here is a brief history of the five who are accused of being urban naxals.

Arun Ferreira

A resident of upscale Bandra in South Mumbai, Arun Ferreira was arrested in 2007 on charges of being a Maoist operative. Over the years, during the UPA era, he had 10 cases slapped against him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which is meant for those who are considered terrorists by the state. The security agencies immediately arrested him again for another offence after he was acquitted in a case. In September 2011, he was released, only to be re-arrested for another serious offence. Though no charge could be proven in the court of law, he has always been on the radar of the intelligence agencies for his close proximity to Maoists and their leaders.

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Vernon Gonsalves 

Vernon Gonsalves is a convicted criminal. He was arrested in 2007 after he was accused of having links to banned Maoist outfits. Mumbai ATS claimed they had recovered detonators from his premises at that time. In 2013, he was convicted under various sections of the UAPA and Arms Act. He served a jail term of more than 5 years.

Security agencies labelled the former professor as ex-central committee member and former secretary of the Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of Naxalites.

P Varavara Rao 

Varavara Rao has been on the radar of Pune Police for years. They have reasons to believe he or his laptops hold answer to a lot of questions that pertain to the bigger picture of urban naxalism in this country. Not new to his links to Maoists, he was arrested in 1973, 1975, 1986 and 2003 under different cases like the stringent Maintenance of Internal Security Act and his involvement in the 1986 Ramnagar conspiracy. He was arrested in 2005 as well under the Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act. On this occasion, not only his house but also his daughters' and of journalists who are believed to be close to him, furthering his propaganda, were raided. One such journalist has been booked under Section 143, 188 and 353 of the IPC.

Gautam Navlakha 

Navlakha is a known Maoist sympathiser. In 2011, he was charged with violation of Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code. He was even stopped from entering Jammu and Kashmir and was turned back to Delhi. At that time, Navlakha was writing about alleged rights violations in the troubled State. He is a regular at the seminar circuits of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi and Jadavpur University in Kolkata, both strong left bastions. This time, apart from charges under several Sections, he is charged under Section 18 of the stringent UAPA that deals with the planning of a terror attack.

Sudha Bharadwaj

Sudha Bharadwaj is a human rights lawyer who is accused of being sympathetic to the Maoists, receiving money from them. Though she has denied the charges, the allegations are quite grave. A Maoist communiqué  names her while describing a monetary transaction involving her, which is the main piece of evidence leading to her arrest. Sources say Pune Police seized around 200 communications including emails after a nationwide raid immediately after intercepting the Maoist communication that was part of a plot to eliminate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in LTTE-style assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, where the name of Sudha Bharadwaj came up repeatedly. She has been charged under Section 153A, 505, 117, 120 of the IPC.

Other dramatis personae

Besides, former JNU student Rona Wilson, a close associate of SAR Geelani, who was arrested in relation to the Parliament attack case in 2001 and later in 2016 for commemorating the death anniversary of slain terrorist Afzal Guru, first came under the radar of security apparatus in 2005. He had organised All india Defence Committee for Geelani.

Urban naxal Binayak Sen was arrested and charged under UAPA in 2007 and then charged and convicted for sedition in 2010.

Even when the 2011, anti-Kudankulam nuclear power plant protests erupted in Tamil Nadu, the then J Jayalaitha government had charged over 1800 people with sedition. The UPA was in power then.

And yet, Congress leader Salman Khurshid had said that “an atmosphere imposing restrictions on dissent” is enveloping the country.