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NEW DELHI/PUNE: A day after the pan India crackdown on Left-wing activists, the action shifted to the courts today with the Supreme Court giving urgent hearing to a plea against the arrests in the afternoon and three of the five who were nabbed to be produced before a Pune court.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) stepped into the growing controversy over the arrests of Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, saying "it appears" that standard operating procedure was not properly followed and this may amount to a violation of their human rights.
It issued notices to the Maharashtra government and the state's police chief and for a 'factual report' in the matter within four weeks.
Telugu poet Rao and activists Gonsalves and Ferreira were taken to Pune late last night and are likely to be produced in a court later in the day, a senior police official in Pune said.
The other two arrested for their suspected links with Maoists were trade unionist and lawyer Bharadwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Navlakha in Delhi.
Navlakha and Bharadwaj are confined to their homes, under the guard of police officers, and allowed to meet only their lawyers.
Eminent historian Romila Thapar and four others have moved the apex court against the arrests by the Maharashtra Police.
The petition was mentioned before a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra which agreed to give an urgent hearing today itself at 3.45 pm.
The petition, which was mentioned by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, seeks the release of all five and an independent probe into the arrests.
In a parallel development, the Delhi High Court will hear Navlakha's plea in the afternoon after the Maharashtra Police submitted that translated documents of the case were not ready.
"The entire case is a political ploy against political dissent by this vindictive and cowardly government, which is bent upon shielding the real culprits of Bhima Koregaon and thus divert attention from its own scams and failures which stretch from Kashmir to Kerala," Navlakha said in a statement issued by the civil rights group People's Union for Democratic Rights of which he is a part.
Heavy security was deployed outside his heavily barricaded Nehru Enclave residence.
No outsiders were allowed inside and several media vans were stationed outside.
Navlakha's transit remand was secured from the Saket district court to take him to Pune.
The order, however, was stayed by the high court.
It was a night of dramatic developments for those following Bharadwaj's case.
The chief judicial magistrate of Faridabad had granted Bharadwaj's transit remand to the Maharashtra police.
However, it had to reverse its order in the early hours of Wednesday in keeping with the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that had stayed her transit remand for three days.
The near simultaneous multi-city raids against the five as well as four others were carried out as part of a probe into the violence between Dalits and the upper caste Peshwas at Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune after an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year.
Provocative speeches were made at the Elgar Parishad event, which triggered the violence, according to an FIR registered at the Vishrambaug police station in Pune after the event.
Koregaon-Bhima occupies a central place in Dalit history -- it witnessed a major battle in which the Peshwa rulers were defeated on January 1, 1818 by the British army, comprising a large number of Dalit soldiers.
Every year, the anniversary of the battle is marked by Dalits assembling in Pune and marching to Koregaon-Bhima war memorial.
Rao, Bhardwaj, Ferreira, Gonzalves and Navalakha were arrested under IPC Section 153 (A), which relates to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, an official said.
There were also arrested under some other sections of the IPC, along with Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their "alleged Naxal activities", the official said without elaborating.
According to unconfirmed reports, others whose residences were raided yesterday were Susan Abraham, Kranthi Tekula and Anand Teltumbde in Goa.
Yesterday's events mirrored raids conducted in June when five activists were arrested in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima violence.
Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale was arrested from his home in Mumbai, while lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen were picked up from Nagpur and Rona Wilson was arrested from his flat in Munirka in Delhi in June.