Bhima-Koregaon case: Knowledge of Maoist ideology not enough grounds to keep us in jail, say activists

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Published on Oct 05, 2019 12:34 AM IST
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ByK A Y Dodhiya, Mumbai

The three activists accused in last year’s Bhima-Koregaon violence claimed before the Bombay high court (HC) that merely knowing or professing Marxist, Leninist, Bolshevik or Maoist ideologies could not be the basis for keeping them in jail. The Pune Police concluded its arguments opposing the bail applications of the three accused –Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj – on Friday.

The police had opposed the bail applications on the ground that the three activists were connected to organisations that were allegedly associated with the banned outfit, CPI (Maoist). However, Gonsalves, Ferreira and Bharadwaj refuting the claims of the police, said that it could not be the grounds for implicating them.

Additional public prosecutor Aruna Pai, while opposing the application of Ferreira, referred to the letter recovered from the laptop of another accused – Rona Wilson – and said that Ferreira was directly involved in building a student and women’s movement and was also entrusted with the responsibility of providing cadre through recruitment for the rural struggle.

Pai further submitted that though the three accused were not involved in any arms deals proof of which was available with regards to other accused, the fact that Gonsalves, Ferreira and Bharadwaj were tasked with inciting people to rebel, was prima facie true and hence should be denied bail.

Senior advocate Mihir Desai, who appeared for Gonsalves, rebutted Pai’s submissions, saying that the proceedings were not to decide on whether following Marxist, Bolshevik, Leninist or Maoist ideology is a crime in India.

He submitted that political outfits such as the CPI (Marxist) are recognised parties, which have even formed the government in some states. He further said that there were many offshoots of the Maoist ideology in the country of which only two were involved in terrorist activities. Gonsalves has not been affiliated to either of them and hence, should be granted bail.

Seeking bail for Ferreira, his counsel Sudeep Pasbola rebutted Pai’s claims that the lecture he delivered in the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners meeting were inflammatory and said that there was no evidence against his client. Pasbola further submitted that the Indian Association of People’s Lawyer (IAPL), with which Ferreira was connected, was neither a banned organisation nor a frontal organisation of the banned CPI (Maoist) group. He said that even if IAPL is allegedly linked with the banned group, it has a limited role, and is not promoting the ultimate goal of violence as propounded by CPI (Maoist). He also said that just because the activists oppose the government’s stand, it does not mean that they be branded as a frontal organisation.

He concluded that his client is a human rights activist and that Ferreira was a classic example of anyone with that role treads on a dangerous path. Elaborating his point further, he said that despite the fact that Ferreira acted within the ambit of the Constitution, he has been incarcerated for a year.

The court will hear Bharadwaj’s rebuttal on Monday, followed by the state’s clarification, and then pass its judgment.

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