Pune: The Pune police have arrested five persons on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in Koregaon-Bhima violence. However, a question arises on the credibility of the arrest as four out of five were not even present in Pune on the day of Elgar Parishad as well as on the day of violence at Koregaon-Bhima on January 1 this year.
All five are accused of conspiring the violence and playing a major role in organising the Elgar Parishad at Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2017, and also for inciting the violence at Koregaon-Bhima They have been booked under stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)
The arrested persons have been identified as Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling and Shoma Sen. Wilson who is a social activist was arrested from his residence at Delhi whereas Dhawale, an activist and an editor of ‘Vidrohi’ magazine was arrested from Mumbai. Nagpur-based lawyer Gadling, tribal rights activist Mahesh Raut and Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen were arrested from Nagpur. It is significant to note that beside Dhawale, none of the four has any case registered against them in wake of Koregaon-Bhima violence.
According to sources, teams of Pune place entered the houses of arrested persons at Delhi, Mumbai and Nagpur at the coordinated time of 6.30 on Wednesday morning.
They arrested Wilson, Gadling, Raut and Dhawale in morning itself whereas Sen was arrested in the evening after a raid on her house in the morning.
Lalsu Soma Nagoti, a tribal activist based in Gadchiroli who has worked with Raut against the mining companies in Gadhchiroli, said, “He has been arrested just for opposing the mining companies who are occupying the land of tribals in the villages of Gadchiroli. He was working with gram sabhas in their protest against mining in Surjagad. He doesn’t have any involvement in organising Elgar Parishad and inciting violence at Koregaon-Bhima.
Raut, a former fellow of Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship Scheme was based in Gadchiroli and a few weeks back moved to Nagpur.
“He was fighting for the rights of poor and innocent tribals. I think they are going to arrest more people in his contact and will tag them as Naxalites,” added Nagoti.
Advocate Vikrant Narnaware, a junior of Gadling said, “Gadling sir was not even present in Pune when the event of Koregaon-Bhima occurred. We were in Kolkata court at that time. He has been targeted as he was fighting the cases of people who were alleged of being Naxalites or promoting Naxalism. He got relieved many innocent people who were arrested on false charges. He gave a fund of just Rs 2,000 to the organisers of Elgar Parishad and that was his only role in that.
Narnaware further informed that police raided the house and office of Gadling on April 17 and seized various equipment like laptops, hard discs etc.
Surendra Gadling is also the lawyer of wheelchair-bound Delhi University professor GN Saibaba who is presently lodged in Nagpur Central Jail.
Karen Gabriel, associate professor of St Stephen College in Delhi and friend of Wilson, said, “Anybody who is fighting for the rights of people, anyone who is endorsing for the downtrodden is being targeted by the government as Maoists. They are trying to wipe out people who are having a moderately democratic agenda. These people don’t have any connection with Elgar Parishad or Koregaon-Bhima violence, they are just arrested for their activities in the areas where government and corporates are occupying their lands, where genocide of tribals are taking place. These people should be immediately released by the police.
Shivaji Pawar, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Swargate Division, who is leading the case, said, “All of them have been arrested under UAPA and we are going to produce them in court on Thursday.
When questioned about the role of arrested persons in Koregaon –Bhima violence, Pawar, said, “Presently, I cannot tell about their role in the Koregaon-Bhima violence.”
Rajya Sabha MP and CPI (Communist Party of India) leader D Raja, said, “Maharashtra government is just targeting innocent people who are raising their voices against the atrocities. Its totally unacceptable and should be condemned.”
Accused or victims?
- Rona Wilson is a Delhi-based social activist.
- Shoma Sen is an associate professor at Nagpur University. Her husband Tushar Kanti was also arrested in past on the allegations of promoting Naxalism.
- Mahesh Raut, a former fellow of Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship scheme, was based in Gadchiroli and a few weeks back moved to Nagpur. He was one of the few who was spearheading the movements against illegal minings in Gadchiroli.
- Surendra Gadling is a Nagpur-based lawyer who was actively fighting the cases of people accused of Naxal activities.
- Sudhir Dhawale is a Mumbai-based activist and an editor of ‘Vidrohi’ magazine. He was also arrested in the past for his alleged Naxal activities.