Separate teams of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday conducted raids on the houses of social activists, trade union leaders and a journalist at different locations in Bokaro, Dhanbad and Ramgarh districts of Jharkhand.
Although several calls to the NIA spokesperson went unanswered and the Jharkhand police spokesperson A.V. Homkar claimed ignorance about the raids, a statement issued by the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation (CDRO) — a coalition of civil and democratic rights organisations — termed the raids as a ploy by the BJP-led Centre to “repress the lawful demands and voices of and for the people of Jharkhand”.
Family members of the journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh, whose house was raided in Ramgarh, claimed that the NIA team said that the raids were being conducted for having links with banned Maoist outfits.
Rupesh has been in Ranchi jail since July 2022.
“Today (Tuesday), houses of Damodar Turi of Jharkhand Jan Sangharsh Morcha at Dhanbad, Baccha Singh of Majdoor Sangathan Samity at Bokaro, Sanjay Turi of Majdoor Sangathan Samity at Bokaro, Nageshwar Mahto of Majdoor Sangathan Samity at Bokaro and Khanuram Mahto of Majdoor Sangathan Samity at Madhuban, Giridih, were raided,” said a statement issued by one of the CDRO conveners, Tapas Chakraborty, who is based in Calcutta.
The list mentioned in the statement did not include Rupesh.
“The raids were followed by the detention of Damodar Turi by the NIA team in the district of Dhanbad till 2pm after which he was released. The details of the events and activities with Damodar Turi by the NIA Team during the period of detention as well as what belongings have been seized from all the victims during the raids is yet not known,” the statement said.
According to the statement, the victim activists and trade union leaders have been demanding the rights of the marginalised people of Jharkhand, mainly the Adivasis and unorganised workers, through their peaceful, lawful and legal procedures. The NIA raid is clearly a step “focused towards silencing the peaceful, democratic and lawful protest against the wrong policies and various forms of ongoing atrocities on common people of Jharkhand”, the statement said.
Local scribes at Bermo in Bokaro and the jailed scribe’s family members informed that books, diaries, literature, posters and mobiles have been seized by the NIA team.
The erstwhile BJP government in Jharkhand had banned the Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti in 2008, calling it an open organisation of Maoists. However, in February 2022 the high court lifted the ban on the trade union committee.