Pune, Aug 29, 2018 : Three of the five activists arrested by Pune police on Tuesday — in connection with its investigations into the alleged Maoist involvement in the organisation of Elgaar Parishad — will be produced before a court later today. Pune police have said they will submit preliminary findings of their investigations into the ‘Maoist links’.
“Through the prosecution lawyer, we will argue for police custody of the three persons to be produced in court. We will present our primary findings about their Maoist links.” a police officer said.
Police had Tuesday conducted simultaneous searches across the country. Activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, writer and activist P Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, civil rights lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad, activist Vernon Gonzalves in Mumbai, Arun Ferreira in Thane, Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Anand Teltumbde in Goa had their homes searched by officials. By evening, all, except Teltumbde and Stan Swamy, had been arrested. Rao, Gonsalves and Ferreira were brought to Pune and will be produced in court, where the prosecution will seek police custody.
Last evening, a court in Faridabad — which had granted a ‘transit remand’ for Bharadwaj so that she could be taken to Pune — recalled its decision at midnight and ordered that she be kept under house arrest till Thursday, when the Punjab and Haryana High Court will hear the matter. In Navlakha’s case too, the Delhi High Court ordered that he be kept confined to his house under police guard till it issues further orders.
Police claim that the speeches made at Elgaar Parishad, a day ahead of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, were one of the triggers for the violence that was witnessed in and around Pune the next day, in which one person, a Maratha, was killed.
Police have said that the arrests on Tuesday were based on the information they had received from five “urban Maoist operatives” arrested earlier this year. On June 6, Pune police had carried out a similar operation and arrested Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson of the Committee of Release of Political Prisoners, Sudhir Dhawale, a leader of Mumbai-based Republican Panthers Jati Antachi Chalwal, Nagpur lawyer Surendra Gadling of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, and Mahesh Raut who had in the past been a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow.
Police had accused them of sourcing funds from banned Maoist groups to help organise the Elgaar Parishad in 2017. However, when they were produced in court the next day, Pune police claimed they had recovered material from them that pointed to a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a “Rajiv Gandhi-like manner”. Police submitted a letter before the court, allegedly written by Wilson to one Comrade Prakash, in support of its claim.
The five arrested in June were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and are currently lodged at Yerwada central prison in Pune, in magisterial custody. Police are yet to file a chargesheet against them.
Sources in the Pune police have claimed that Tuesday’s arrests followed a probe into at least 200 communications between the five people arrested in June, some of which made a mention of those arrested on Tuesday.
The Elgaar Parishad was organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon which happened on January 1 in 1818, in which a British army comprising a large number of Dalit soldiers is said to have defeated the Peshwas.
Every year on January 1, thousands of Dalits assemble in Pune and march to the village of Koregaon Bhima which has a war memorial (Jaystambh) in memory of those who died in that battle. Among those who spoke at Elgaar Parishad were Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and JNU student Umar Khalid.