PUNE: While granting bail to civil rights activist Binayak Sen in 2011, the Supreme Court famously said that mere possession of Naxal literature does not make a person a Naxalite or guilty of sedition, just as one who possesses Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography cannot call himself a Gandhian. However, it seems law enforcement agencies haven’t paid much heed to the observation.
After arresting five persons from Delhi, Mumbai and Nagpur for alleged role in organising Elgar Parishad, the Pune police alleged that all five arrested persons were members of CPI (Maoist) and they have recovered Maoist literature from them. However, besides the literature, the police have nothing to substantiate their claim.
On Wednesday five persons were arrested by the Pune police. These are Delhi-based social activist Rona Wilson, Nagpur University Professor Shoma Sen, Mumbai-based Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, Gadchiroli-based anti-mining and anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut and Nagpur-based lawyer Surendra Gadling. Wilson was arrested from his residence at Delhi and Dhawale from Mumbai. Gadling, Raut and Sen were arrested from Nagpur. All accused were arrested around 6.30 am.
Joint Commissioner of Pune Police Ravindra Kadam said, “We have enough evidence to say these people are members of CPI (Maoists), which is a banned organisation. We have recovered Maoist documents of classified nature from them. During investigation, it was revealed that these people were in touch with the senior Maoist leaders and that is why we have booked them under UAPA.”
Kadam added, “We raided the houses of Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling on April 17 and seized hard discs and computers from there. We sent these equipment to forensic labs and came to know that Wilson and Gandling have close connections with senior Maoists members. We came to know that both of them were connected to Dhawale. We also came to know that Sen and Raut were helping Wilson and Gadling in organising Elgar Parishad.”
Kadam alleged that on January 2, 2018, top Maoist leader and Central Committee member of CPI (Maoist) Milind Teltumbade wrote a letter to Wilson, which mentions Congress Party, Prakash Ambedkar and Jignesh Mewani. He said, “In the letter by Teltumbade, there is mention of financial assistance from Congress and Prakash Ambedkar for aggressive mobilisation of Dalits across the State. The letter stated that Jignesh Mewani is the intermediary of the Congress and they are ready to provide financial and legal assistance through him for Dalit mobilisation and chaos across the State.”
Kadam said the police are only aware of the role of the five arrested persons in organising Elgar Parishad, but they are not aware of their role in the Koregaon-Bhima violence, which occurred on January 1. When asked about arrests of Raut and Gadling for work related to anti-mining protests in Gadchiroli and fighting the case of GN Saibaba and others accused of Naxal activities, Kadam said, “We have not arrested Raut for ant-mining protests. We know he is doing good work there and has done significant work on PESA-related issues. But off late he got into contact with Naxalities and started working on their orders. It’s totally misleading that we arrested Gadling as he fights cases of people who are accused of Naxal activities. We have not arrested him for that. We have arrested him because we have ample evidence against him for his Maoist links.”
When questioned about the kind of evidence, Kadam said, “We cannot give the contents of documents as we are doing an investigation on its basis.”
All five persons were produced in court on Thursday and were remanded in police custody till June 14.
Suzan Abraham, defence lawyer of the five arrested persons, said, “The prosecution is just leveling allegations. The police and prosecution were saying that according to the papers seized, the five accused were generating money to carry out an attack on a person in the similar way in which LTTE attacked Rajiv Gandhi, but they don’t have any evidence or proof to support their claim. They mentioned a letter in the court, but they haven’t handed us any papers. These are just allegations.”
She said, “All these allegations have nothing to do with the FIR filed against my clients for alleged role in Elgar Parishad and Koregaon-Bhima violence on the basis of which they have arrested them. They were just making allegations without evidence.”
Tosif Shaikh, another defence lawyer, said, “The prosecution was alleging that these people were collecting Rs 8 crore for acquiring a weapon, M-4 Machine, which can shoot 4 lakh rounds. They said Mahesh Raut has received Rs 5 lakh for PESA work.We argued that the prosecution is just sensationalising the case by bringing the matter of the attack on Rajiv Gandhi and trying to bring it into reference with the current prime minister.”