Defending last month’s arrests of five alleged Maoist sympathisers from Mumbai, Nagpur and New Delhi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday told the Legislative Council here that police had strong evidence against them. “Incriminating material seized from their possession, like hard disks and pen drives have established their links with top Maoist leaders,” Fadnavis said in reply to a point raised by Legislative Council member Kapil Patil during a discussion on starred questions by member Sanjay Dutt and four others.
Patil had asked if the government was differentiating between following an ideology and actually participating in its activities. Patil was of the view that activists like Surendra Gadling, a Nagpur-based lawyer, and Shoma Sen, an English professor in Nagpur University, were being unnecessarily held in police custody. “Just because they shared the same ideology (of Maoists), it cannot be said they were having Maoist connections,” Patil said.
Apart from Gadling and Sen, Pune Police also arrested Sudhir Dhawale, a leader of the Mumbai-based Republican Panthers Jati Antachi Chalwal, often referred to as just RP, Delhi-based Rona Wilson of Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), and Mahesh Raut, who was once a Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow.
The arrests were made in connection with the investigation into the organisation of Elgaar Parishad in Pune on December 31 last year, a day before violent clashes took place in and around Koregaon Bhima village, where lakhs had gathered for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
Apart from other things, police are investigating the allegations that speeches made at the Elgaar Parishad event had instigated the violence on January 1. Pune Police have said there was evidence to establish that operatives of the banned outfit, CPI-Maoist, had links with organisers of the Elgaar Parishad. While Dhawale was one of the organisers, police have claimed that Shoma Sen was present at the event. The police said all five arrested had strong Maoist connections.
A day after the arrests, the police had claimed in a court that investigations into the documents and other material seized from the arrested people had revealed that Maoists had been talking about eliminating Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a “Rajiv Gandhi-like assassination”. The court has ordered all five to be in police custody till early next month.
On Wednesday, in the Legislative Council, Jogendra Kawade of the RPI said the arrested activists were being made scapegoats to protect right-wing leader Sambhaji Bhide, who is an accused in the Koregaon Bhima violence case. Fadnavis refuted the allegation, saying nobody would be shielded and the ongoing judicial inquiry into the incident will examine all aspects.