The National Investigation Agency raided 62 locations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, including the homes of human rights activists and researchers, in connection with allegations about providing financial and logistical support to Maoists, The Wire reported on Tuesday.

The agency also arrested Chandra Narasimhulu, the state executive committee member of Pragathiseela Karmika Samakya – allegedly a frontal organisation of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) – from Andhra Pradesh’s Sri Sathyasai district.

The NIA said it recovered a pistol with 14 rounds from the location.

The case dates back to 2020, when a television journalist named Pangi Naganna was arrested by the Munchingiputtu police in Andhra Pradesh’s Alluri Sitharamaraju district over allegations that had been working as a courier for Maoists. A case was filed against the journalist and 63 others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code, according to The News Minute.

Subsequently, Naganna was said to have named several activists and said they were running frontal organisations for the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The NIA took over the case in 2021.

On October 2, the agency raided 53 locations in Guntur, Palanadu, Vijayawada, Rajhmundry, Prakasam, Bapatla, Eluru, East Godavari, D R Ambedkar Konaseema, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Nellore, Tirupati, Kadapa, Sathya Sai, Anantapur and Kurnool districts in Andhra Pradesh.

In Telangana, the agency carried out searches in Hyderabad, Mahabub Nagar, Hanumakonda, Ranga Reddy and Adilabad.

Among those whose homes were raided were lawyer Durba Suresh Kumar and human rights activists K Sudha, Y Rajesh and KV Jagannadha Rao, according to The Wire.

Kumar said that the agency issued a notice to him, directing him to be present before it as a witness. He contended that the notice was unlawful and unethical, as he is a counsel for some of the accused persons in the case.

“I am a counsel for many persons named in the case,” he told the news website. “I represent them in the high court and now the NIA wants me to appear before them as a witness in the same case.”

Raids are ‘witch hunt’ against rights defenders, says PUCL

Human rights body People’s Union for Civil Liberties called the raids a witch hunt and said that the agency was abusing its powers by persecuting activists, who have been consistently taking up issues of the most marginalised sections of society in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“The timing and manner of conducting the raids is suspect and supports the suspicion that the raids have been stage managed by the NIA to intimidate, threaten and silence rights defenders, grassroots activists, media persons and concerned citizens from seeking accountability, criticising or questioning the government and the political executive,” the organisation said.

The PUCL said that in the past two-and-a-half years, the NIA’s investigation has not resulted in any incriminatory evidence.

The organisation also alleged that the agency seized electronic devices of the activists without providing them with cloned copies of the data on them. This, it said, compromised the integrity of the data on the devices, violated seizure procedure and breached their right to privacy.