Pune: The simultaneous raids at residences and some offices of five activists from Pune besides those in Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi on Tuesday, found the Maharashtra police and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis giving different reasons. The searches began at 6 am and went on till late afternoon.
While Fadnavis said the searches were related to Urban Naxalites (Maoists), police officials said it was related to Elgaar Parishad in Pune, which was organised a day before the Koregaon-Bhima violence on January 1.
Officials from Pune city police, Mumbai police, Nagpur police and sleuths from the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) swooped down at the residences of activist Rona Wilson in Delhi, lawyer Surendra Gadling in Nagpur, who has fought on behalf of former Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, and those of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) activists Sudhir Dhavale, Harshali Potdar, both from Mumbai, Jyoti Jagtap and her husband Ramesh Gaichor, both from Yerawada and Deepak Dengle from Pimple Saudagar, and Sagar Gorkhe and his wife Rupali Jadhav from Wakad. KKM is a Left-leaning cultural organisation.
KKM activists decried the government’s ‘pressure tactics’, stating they were being ‘targeted’ for demanding the arrest of Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’ for his role in the violence. “The so-called raids are being conducted after three months of registration of the case because we are soft targets. They ‘seized’ some literature which included pamphlets on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s thoughts and those of progressive activists like Annabhau Sathe. We have nothing to hide. KKM was not the only organisation which participated in the Parishad but there were more than 200 organisations. Police had done a video recording of the Parishad,” Jagtap said. Police have also seized their phones.
Activist lawyer Gadling said, “Instead of Bhide, they are targeting us. I did not participate in the Koregaon-Bhima event. However, we had collected funds for it like we do for any such programme. The police are troubling us and allowing those behind the violence to go scot-free. These raids are meant to silence people who have stood up to the RSS.”
Reacting sharply to the police action, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh President Prakash Ambedkar termed it as harassment and diversionary tactics of the government. Instead of arresting Sambhaji Bhide, the alleged main culprit who fuelled the Koregaon-Bhima riots, the government is indulging in these diversions, Ambedkar alleged.
Later in the evening, the Parishad members organised a press conference here. “Our programme venue was surrounded by police personnel. If we had done anything objectionable, by now there would have been some action against us, but police have not found anything objectionable,” said Akash Sabale, one of the organisers of the Parishad.
“If a complaint is enough for such an action to be taken, then there were complaints about Milind Ekbote and Bhide too. They were not searched or raided in this way. Is this not a clear sign of a bias?,” said MN Kamble, another organiser.
Chief minister’s statement
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is also the home minister of the state, said, “It is a nationwide raid by the central agencies and the action had nothing to do with the Elgaar Parishad. The raids were conducted in relation to intelligence received regarding urban naxalism.”