New Delhi, Aug 30, 2018 : A day after the Maharashtra Police arrested five prominent activists for suspected links to Maoists, officers on Wednesday filed a document in a Pune court asking for their custody. The document - a remand report - gave 16 reasons why the rights activists should be in police custody, but had none of the dramatic claims made by the public prosecutor in court, NDTV has learnt.
The police document, accessed exclusively by NDTV, claimed all activists are members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and set up city units of the outlawed group. However, the petition made no reference to key charges made verbally in court and communicated to the media such as a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi or facilitating Maoist funding and weapons via Nepal.
The grounds presented by the police also did not mention the clashes in January between Dalits and upper caste Maratha organisations at Bhima-Koregaon near Pune, which they were allegedly linked to. Neither did it mention the involvement of the accused in the incident.
During the hearing, the public prosecutor read out from letters allegedly seized from the accused, presenting it as evidence that the arrested were working in collusion with Maoists. The remand report, however, only stated that they are active members of the CPI (Maoist) and are trying to "advance their cause" though illegal activities.
The five campaigners were asked to be taken under house arrest by the Supreme Court yesterday as outrage grew over their detention.
Civil society activists and the opposition have dismissed the allegations against the activists, who were detained a day earlier after sweeping raids across India, and said the crackdown was part of ongoing attempts to stifle all dissent.
The police detained the campaigners, seized their laptops and mobile phones, in raids on their homes in different cities, triggering protests and a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the action.
Sudha Bharadwaj, who has been fighting for the rights of workers in Chhattisgarh among other states where Maoists insurgents operate, said the action against her was part of a broader crackdown on opponents of the government.
"The effort is whatever is the opposition to this regime, whether it is workers’ rights, tribal rights, everybody who in the opposition is being rounded up," she told reporters outside her home in Faridabad near New Delhi.
The others detained on Tuesday included Varavara Rao, a prominent poet from Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira from Mumbai and civil liberties activist Gautam Navlakha from New Delhi.