The Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested social activist Tushar Bhattacharya (62), a resident of Nagpur, Monday for “seditious activities” (Section 124 of the IPC). Sources in the ATS said Bhattacharya was picked up from Raipur “while he was travelling back to Nagpur from Kolkata in connection with a 2010 case”.
His wife and fellow activist Shoma Sen said, “He (Bhattacharya) had gone to meet his sister in Kolkata and was returning. I had been trying his phone since 6 am but it was not reachable. So, my driver went to pick him up from the railway station, but didn’t fine him. Later, he called up to say he was at the Nagpur airport, having been arrested by the Surat police, and was being taken to Gujarat.”
Sen said her husband was arrested earlier too in Telangana on charges of “propagating Maoist activities”, and had been jailed for six years from 2007 to 2013 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). “But he was acquitted in all the cases and had since then been staying in Nagpur doing some writing work and social activism. During this period, one more case was foisted on him and others in 2010 at Surat. The arrest was made in this case,” she said.
The ATS sources said Bhattacharya was “wanted among 20 others in the case”. While the ATS sources said he had been absconding, Sen said he had been living in Nagpur for the last four years.
“My husband was shockingly described as absconding, while he has been actually active in Nagpur since 2013. And they have now arrested him from a train, treating him like a criminal. They could well have arrested him from our home here,” Sen said while speaking to the media at Nagpur.
She added: “He had not been active at any point of time in Surat in any manner.”
Filmmaker Veera Sathidar, who accompanied Sen, said, “The arrest is all the more curious since Tushar had written two letters to Surat court from the Chellapalli jail in Telangana in 2011 saying he was in jail and not absconding. After that, he has been in Nagpur for four years. Why have they suddenly arrested him now?”
Sen admitted that her husband did espouse Maoist ideology. “But that is no crime. He hasn’t held a gun in his hands to be treated like a criminal and since he had developed a lot of health complications in jail, he was not much into activism either and concentrated mainly on writing,” she said, demanding his “immediate release”.
Sen had been in the forefront in defending Delhi University professor G N Saibaba who had been arrested for Maoist links and was later convicted.
The Maharashtra Police, meanwhile, said Bhattacharya was picked up from Chhattisgarh, and the Gujarat ATS had not sought any help from them in the matter.