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Maharashtra govt case against arrested activists hinges on ‘digital data’

The state’s home department, which cleared the controversial multi-state raids and arrests, is convinced that the emails recovered provide “ample evidence” against activists for working as fronts for a banned Maoist group, the CPI (Maoist), and conspiring against the government.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2018 09:52 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
activists arrested,maharashtra govt,elgar parishad
People raise slogans during a protest held in New Delhi on Thursday against the arrests of five activists two days earlier.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

The Maharashtra government’s case against the activists arrested on Tuesday for their alleged Maoist links rests largely on digital data allegedly recovered by the Pune police from the seized laptops, hard discs and pen drives of five other activists arrested earlier in June.

The state’s home department, which cleared the controversial multi-state raids and arrests, is convinced that the emails recovered provide “ample evidence” against activists for working as fronts for a banned Maoist group, the CPI (Maoist), and conspiring against the government, according to a senior official in the state government.

State government and police officials have shared with Hindustan Times eight such emails which are now part of the state’s case against the activists. HT couldn’t independently ascertain the authenticity or provenance of these mails.

The Pune police arrested trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira and civil rights activist Gautam Navlakha on Tuesday. In June, the police arrested lawyer Surendra Gadling, activists Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, professor Shoma Sen and Sudhir Dhawale for their involvement in organising Elegar Parishad in Pune on December 31 and for having links with Maoists.

“There is ample evidence to nail each person arrested so far by the Pune police. Our case is that urban naxal network made of such activists has been playing a crucial role in mobilising, funding, organising arms for the Naxal movement. These people are part of several democratic rights and civil rights organisations which are used as a front for Maoists activities,” added the state government official who did not want to be named.

The government has also sent a report to the Union home ministry, summing up the evidence from the digital data at its disposal which also includes copies of letters seized from the laptops and hard discs.

The emails seen by HT have varied information and name everyone arrested except Navlakha. The information in them includes reference to purchase of equipment from a Nepali supplier, details of mobilising new recruits among research students, funding for protests and fact finding teams, and working with Christian missionaries.

Lawyers defending the activists say the letters and emails are not verified.

“The letters seem bogus. For starters, I don’t think Maoists put down details almost like minutes of a government meeting in their communication. There are several discrepancies in these letters too,” said Mihir Desai, advocate who is offering legal advice to Gadling and Ferreira.

“The prosecution says that CPI (Maoist) is a covert organisation that works by exchanging secret coded messages. Their leaders are given pseudonyms and yet the mails the police seems to have accessed have all the activists signing off with their own names and spelling out all details including when and where arms will be delivered. The letters are totally concocted,” said Rohan Nahar, advocate for Varavara Rao.

Desai and Nahar have not accessed the letters or emails but the prosecution lawyer has mentioned some details in the Pune court. The evidence of the prosecution will be shared with defence only after charges are framed against the accused.

First Published: Aug 31, 2018 09:36 IST