The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested two artists of the Pune-based cultural group, Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case.
The two accused, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, were active members of the ‘Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyaan’, a body that had organised the Elgaar Parishad, an evening conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
The two arrests take the total number of arrests in the Elgaar Parishad case to 14, and many of the accused are rights activists, academics and lawyers. In July, the NIA had arrested Delhi University Professor Hany Babu Musaliyarveettil Tharayil in this case. The agency had also summoned several others, including Gorkhe and Gaichor, for questioning at that time.
Advocate Mihir Desai, one of the defence lawyers in this case, said that over the last few days, Gorkhe and Gaichor were called by the NIA to Mumbai for questioning, and they were placed under arrest on Monday.
Gorkhe and Gaichor were among the 23 persons booked in the Elgaar Parishad case by the Pune City Police for their alleged links with banned CPI-Maoist, under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The NIA took over the probe in the case earlier this year.
In its chargesheet filed last year, the Pune City Police had claimed that as per the “objectives decided in the Eastern Regional Bureau meeting of the CPI-Maoist, the accused had allegedly organised Elgaar Parishad to mobilise various Dalits and other organisations against the government through alleged Maoist front organisation KKM”.
A KKM artist, who didn’t wish to be named, said, “This (Elgaar Parishad) case is completely false. The real culprits behind Koregaon Bhima violence are Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who are not being investigated. The agencies are targeting groups working for progressive causes.”
Ekbote and Bhide, both Hindutva leaders, were named in connection with the Koregaon Bhima violence case. While Bhide was never arrested due to “lack of evidence”, Ekbote was arrested but released on bail after a few months.
Gorkhe and Gaichor were among KKM artistes booked by the Thane unit of state Anti-Terrorism Squad in 2011, after the arrest of “senior Maoist leader” Anjela Sontakke, for allegedly spreading Maoist ideology of armed struggle against the government. The ATS had also alleged that Gorkhe, Gaichor and few more KKM artists had undergone arms training with Maoist cadres in the jungles of Gadchiroli.
Gorkhe and Gairchor had gone into hiding for a few months, and were finally arrested by the ATS in 2013, soon after they surrendered by staging a ‘satyagraha’ in Mumbai. They were released in January 2017 after being granted bail by the Supreme Court.
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