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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Activists arrested for alleged Maoist links involved in conspiracy with banned groups: Police

Pune police said that all the arrested activists were associated with a banned outfit. A former supreme court judge termed the police version ‘propaganda’.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2018 07:54 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao after a medical chek-up following his arrest by the Pune police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
Revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao after a medical chek-up following his arrest by the Pune police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case, in Hyderabad on Tuesday.(PTI Photo)

The Pune police said the arrest of five activists in raids across the country on Tuesday was part of a “larger probe” into banned outfits.

“All these members arrested by the Pune police are ideologues associated with a banned outfit,” Pune’s joint commissioner of police Shivaji Bodkhe said.

He added that the police were probing Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha’s role in an ‘Elgar Parishad’ gathering on December 31, 2017.

The event preceded the violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune the next day when thousands of Dalits had gathered to observe the 200th anniversary of a battle between Peshwas and the British.

One person died and four others were injured amid widespread stone pelting by unidentified people. Two right-wing Hindu leaders, Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, were charged for the violence.

Police said their investigation is no longer restricted to the Elgar Parishad and now covers the role of the Maoist movement.

The banned Communist Party of India-Maoist’s central committee members had allegedly attended the meeting in December 2015. “There is ample evidence in the form of documents and footage,” said joint commissioner Ravindra Kadam, who was monitoring the Elgar Parishad probe. Rao’s name allegedly surfaced in one of the three letters found after five other activists Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, and Shoma Sen were arrested in June.

“With the support of Gadling and comrade Varavara Rao, various activities could be possible in different parts of the country,” one of the letters had reportedly said. The Pune police said another letter allegedly recovered from Wilson’s house even suggested a strategy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We are thinking along the lines of another Rajiv Gandhi-type incident. It sounds suicidal and there is a good chance that we might fail, but we feel that the party PB/CC must deliberate over our proposal. Targeting his road shows could be an effective strategy,” the letter reportedly said. Former Supreme Court judge PB Sawant rubbished the police version. “This is propaganda by the government and investigating agencies. Those working for human rights are being labelled extremist,” Sawant said.

Historian Ramachandra Guha called the action “absolutely chilling” and demanded the Supreme Court’s intervention to stop “persecution and harassment” of independent voices.

First Published: Aug 29, 2018 07:42 IST

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