Waging war against nation: Charges against activists arrested for alleged Maoist connections
Elgar Parishad refers to an event organised in Pune on December 31, 2017, by leftist and Dalit activist groups that police alleges triggered violence in Bhima Koregaon, around 40 km away, the next day.Updated: Nov 19, 2018 14:55 IST
Police have invoked charges of sedition and waging war against the state, among others, against all suspects arrested on allegations of Maoist connections and appearance in a controversial event in Pune, the government lawyer told a court on Sunday.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar told sessions court judge KD Vadane that five new charges had been levelled against the suspects in the Elgar Parishad case, including Indian Penal Code sections 121 (waging war against the country) and 124(a) (sedition) and 121(a) (conspiracy).
The maximum punishment for sedition is life imprisonment while that for waging war against the state is death. Elgar Parishad refers to an event organised in Pune on December 31, 2017, by leftist and Dalit activist groups that police alleges triggered violence in Bhima Koregaon, around 40 km away, the next day.
In June 2018, Pune police arrested five activists - advocate Surendra Gadling, former professor Shoma Sen, activists Sudhir Dhawale and Rona Wilson, and former Prime Minister’s rural development fellow, Mahesh Raut.
Police have also booked five alleged members of the banned outfit, CPI (Maoist) -- Milind Teltumbde, Ritupan Goswami, Prashanto Bose, Manglu and Dipu -- who are all described as absconding. Last week, police filed a charge sheet against these 10 people under provisions of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for allegedly fomenting violence and conspiring to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On August 28, the police made another round of arrests in the Elgar Parishad case, involving poet Varavara Rao, activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves. Navlakha is out on bail. No charge sheet has been filed against these five.
“This case is not an ordinary one. This is the case, where the integrity and unity of the country is in danger and that is why section 124 (A), 121 and 121 (A) of Indian Penal Code have been added by the investigating officer in the charge sheet filed against the accused, including the five activists who were arrested in June this year,” Pawar said.
Pune police confirmed that additional charges of sedition and waging war against the state had been added against people accused “in the Elgar Parishad case” but refused to separately confirm whether it included the five people arrested in August.
Shivaji Pawar, investigating officer in the case, said, “We have invoked these charges in the Elgar Parishad case itself. So whoever is booked in the case will face these charges. This has been done after evaluation of all the evidence gathered so far.”
Attempts to reach Bhardwaj and Navlakha were unsuccessful. “Adding fresh charges are just a deflection tactics by the prosecution. In my view once the trial begins, these charges will not hold ground...,” said advocate Rohan Nahar, who represents Varavara Rao.
Police say the Elgar Parishad meeting was used to plan and foment violence in Bhima Koregaon, a small village where Dalits congregate every year to mark a victory in a British-era war. This year on January 1, violence broke out in Bhima Koregaon, resulting in the death of one person. The next day, Dalit groups across the country clashed with police in violent protests.