Wanted to buy grenade launcher, ammo: Maharashtra police on arrested activists
The Maharashtra Police, criticised for the crackdown of five prominent activists, on Friday went public with documents and letters seized from their possession that the authorities claim, prove that the activists were working closely with Maoists and even facilitating purchase of weapons and grenades for them.
Five activists — lawyer and trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj, poet P Varavara Rao, activist Gautam Navlakha, and lawyers Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves — had been arrested this week. But the police has not been able to question them after the Supreme Court stopped Pune police from taking their custody and placed them under house arrest.
At a press conference to counter the perception that the activists have been arrested for their opinion, senior Maharashtra police officer Param Bir Singh said the police had arrested activists only when we were confident that clear links had been established.
“These were over-ground cadres. But they were doing illegal work of the underground... furthering their agenda,” Singh, Maharashtra’s additional director general of police (law and order) told a news conference.
The documents, he said, demonstrated that the activists were not just in touch with leaders of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) but also carrying out instructions of the Maoist leadership.
The activists allegedly were in communication with Maoist leaders through couriers, who carried the password-protected storage devices. In one communication, Singh said there was a catalogue for Russian grenade launchers and 4 lakh rounds of ammunition.
The violence after an event called Elgar Parishad in December 2017 in Pune is reported to have been the starting point of the police probe that led to the arrest of five people in June this year. Activist Sudhir Dhawale, lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Rona Wilson, researcher Mahesh Raut, and retired professor Shoma Sen were arrested for alleged Maoist ties.
Displaying letters allegedly exchanged between the Maoists and five arrested in June, Mr Singh said these spoke of planning “some big action” which would attract attention, while one spoke of planning “another Rajiv Gandhi-like incident”, referring to the assassination of the former prime minister in 1991.