Have 'very strong' evidence against arrested activists, insist Pune cops

Case has been registered for promoting enmity between groups, doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, & for criminal conspiracy.

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A day after the Supreme Court sentenced five activists to house arrest, top officers from Pune police said they have 'very strong' evidence against those arrested earlier this week to prove that they were trying to spark countrywide violence by inciting the oppressed class, and the Elgaar Parishad was their platform.

On Wednesday, the officers had filed a document in a Pune court asking for their custody, giving 16 reasons for the request. The document said all the activists — Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and Arun Ferreira – are members of the Communist Party of India (CPI) (Maoist) and responsible for setting up city units of the outlawed group.

The petition did not mention a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, facilitate Maoist funding or procurement of weapons.

A case has been registered against the five for promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, abating commission of offence by the public or by more than 10 persons and for criminal conspiracy.

A senior police officer from Pune police told DNA that CPI (Maoists) provided funds for Elgaar Parishad. "Maoist member Sudhir Dhawale was a key organiser of Elgaar Parishad held at Pune on December 31 2017 to commemorate the Bhima-Koregaon battle. Some Naxal leaders sneaked into the organisation committee to use the platform to spread Maoist ideology," he says. "They were working on the directions of senior leaders such as Varavara Rao and Vernon Gonsalves."

Despite this, the document presented by the police in the Pune court did not mention the clashes in January at Bhima-Koregaon near Pune, nor the involvement of the accused in the violent incident. Subsequently, the remand report only stated that the accused are active members of the CPI (Maoist) and are trying to "advance their cause" though illegal activities.

"Some of the accused are top leaders of CPI (Maoists)," says a police officer. "They actively participated in raising funds, recruiting people and executing plans to carry out Maoist activities. Under an anti-fascist front, they target oppressed communities, incite communities against each other and use this violence to create and nurture an anti-government opinion in the country."

In the documents seized from the computers and hard disks of these five activists, police claim they found several letters mentioning their names suggesting anti-national activities.

Pune police commissioner K Venkatesham reiterates that "We have proof about how they carry out action against security forces, raise funds and mobilise cadres to carry out anti-national activities. We will present all this in the Supreme Court and will surely take the case to its logical conclusion."

The Charges

Case has been registered for promoting enmity between groups, doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, & for criminal conspiracy.

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