The Communist Party of India-Maoist was planning to organise a lecture series at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in memory of Naveen Babu, a Maoist leader and JNU alumnus, Pune City Police told a city court on Thursday. Babu was killed in police action in Andhra Pradesh in February 2000.
Pune police made the statement while producing four of the five accused arrested in connection with the case over Elgaar Parishad. They also submitted documents in Shivajinagar court that allegedly revealed plans of the banned outfit, CPI-Maoist, to organise the lecture series at JNU and supply material for the programme.
On June 6, Pune City Police had arrested Rona Wilson, an activist of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and JNU alumnus, from Delhi, activist Sudhir Dhawale of Republican Panthers Jati Antachi Chalwal (RP) from Mumbai, lawyer Surendra Gadling of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen and former Prime Minister Rural Development (PMRD) Fellow Mahesh Raut from Nagpur, in connection with a case pertaining to the Elgaar Parishad, a conference held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31. Pune Police had also said that those arrested were “urban Maoist operatives”.
The complaint alleges that “provocative speeches” at the conference had led to violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, which had led to the death of a 30-year-old youth and left hundreds injured.
All the five accused have been booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). They had been remanded in police custody till June 14. Later, Gadling was admitted to a hospital after he complained of cardiac problems. He was remanded in judicial custody and lodged in Yerwada Jail. The four others were produced before court on Thursday by a police team led by ACP Shivaji Pawar.
Seeking an extension in their police custody for 14 days, district government pleader (DGP) Ujjwala Pawar told the court that data worth 25,000 GB had been recovered from the five accused during searches conducted at their residences. “Cloned copies of the recovered data have been obtained from the forensic department and they are being investigated,” she said. Pawar then submitted some documents before the court and said there was a proposal to organise a lecture series in JNU in the memory of Naveen Babu. The planned JNU lecture series was aimed at “enticing and motivating” students to join the banned outfit, said Pawar.
“All accused have links with the banned CPI-Maoist and investigation regarding their preparations, in execution and implementation of anti-national activities, is at a very crucial stage… Letters investigated by police show funds were also provided to implement rashtravirodhi (anti-national) activities. Cash amount of Rs 80,000 has been seized from accused Rona…,” she said.
The prosecution, however, made no mention of the alleged conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pune City Police, in its remand report, also mentioned that custodial interrogation of the accused was needed to probe a “larger conspiracy” of the banned CPI-Maoist in organising and supplying funds to the Elgaar Parishad and the Koregaon Bhima Shaurya Prernadin Abhiyan.
Defence lawyers, meanwhile, argued that JNU has nothing to do with the offence related to Elgaar Parishad and Koregaon Bhima, and a separate offence can be registered to investigate it.
The defence also argued that two retired justices were the main convenors of the Elgaar Parishad and police had nothing to show the involvement of the accused in the Koregaon Bhima violence. They also sought provision of essential medicines to Gadling.
Pawar argued there was no need to lodge a separate case to probe details revealed during investigation of the case. The court then extended police custody of the four accused till June 21.
The FIR in the case also names 14 others, including Harshali Potdar of Mumbai, Kabir Kala Manch artistes Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap, Deepak Dhengle of Pune and four underground CPI- Maoist operatives Milind Teltumbde, Prakash alias Ritupam Goswami, Manglu and Deepu, among others. On April 17, police had conducted searches at the residences of Wilson, Gadling, Dhawale, Potdar, Gorkhe, Gaichor, Jagtap and Dhengle.
Linking JNU to Koregaon Bhima case is a BJP narrative: Defence lawyer
Activist and lawyer Susan Abraham, who was among the defence lawyers present at Shivajinagar court on Thursday, alleged that linking JNU to the Koregaon Bhima case was a “BJP narrative”. “The ruling party calls all those who oppose it anti-national …It is unfortunate that the BJP narrative is being brought up in court,” Abraham told mediapersons.
“Last time, the prosecution talked about plans for a Rajiv Gandhi-type assassination. This time, they have brought up JNU… Naveen Babu was a former JNU student. But the FIR is about the Koregaon Bhima case….,” said Abraham. On the money allegedly recovered from Rona Wilson, one of the accused, she said, “Rs 80,000 is not a large amount. Rona is from a very affluent family. His brother works in the middle-east. He gets money from his family… and he does lot of research work…”.
Police sources, however, alleged that Wilson was linked to the banned CPI-Maoist. They said crucial information about activities of the banned Maoist outfit, including an e-mail communication suggesting plans to assassinate PM Narendra Modi, have been recovered from Wilson’s laptop.
Another defence lawyer, Tosif Shaikh, said the arrests were an “attempt to protect Hindutva activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide”, who have been booked on charges of inciting violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1. Meanwhile, a team of about 30 lawyers from Nagpur came to the Shivajinagar court to offer legal help to the five accused.