Surendra Gadling, one of the accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, will now be questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his alleged role in funding the activities of the banned CPI (Maoist), officials said, adding that the interrogations are likely to begin Wednesday.
This is the first time that the ED is initiating investigations into the Elgaar Parishad case which, thus far, has been investigated by the NIA and the Pune city police for alleged terror plots and conspiracies by the CPI (Maoist) to destabilise the country’s security.
Claiming that Gadling was involved in the collection and disbursement of Maoist funds for “violent activities”, the ED will be recording his statement in Taloja Central Jail between August 17 and 19, sources said, adding that properties in the name of Gadling and his wife are also under ED scanner.
Elgaar Parishad was an event held in Pune on December 31, 2017, a day ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima, during which violent clashes had taken place. One person had died and several others had been injured in the clashes. Pune police had claimed that speeches made at the Elgaar Parishad event and previous campaigns are among the factors that played a role in inciting violence the following day, and had arrested several people alleged to have helped in organising the event on charges of having links with the banned CPI (Maoist).
The investigation later expanded to probe the wider network of Naxal sympathisers and their role in funding and helping CPI (Maoist). Two years later, the investigations were taken over by the NIA.
Gadling, a Nagpur-based lawyer, was among the first to be arrested by the Pune city police in June 2018. Later, many more high-profile arrests, including those of Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha and P Varavara Rao, were made in this case.
Last week, the ED received the go-ahead from the special NIA court in Mumbai to record Gadling’s statement in connection with a money laundering case it had filed against him and “other accused” in March last year. The ED has mostly relied on the documents procured by the Pune city police, which allegedly link Gadling to funding activities of the CPI (Maoist). Gadling has denied these allegations. The documents claim to show that Gadling had received large sums of money during the demonetisation drive, and had facilitated ‘hawala’ transactions with a ‘CC comrade’, a reference to some high functionary of the CPI (Maoist).
Among the evidence presented by the Pune police in its chargesheet is a statement by surrendered Naxal leader Kumarsai, alias Pahadsingh, that claims that during demonetisation, Maoist leader Milind Teltumbde gave about Rs 1.5 crore (old currency notes) to Gadling through “Darekasa division committee member Lakshman alias Sukhdev”.
The chargesheet also has letters, alleged to be communications between Gadling and accused P Varavara Rao, who recently got bail from the Supreme Court on medical grounds.
In one of the letters, Varavara Rao allegedly tells Gadling about “naraji (anger)” against him in the organisation, as from lakhs of rupees given to him during demonetisation, the funds expected for Gadchiroli and Bastar were not made available.
In another letter, Gadling allegedly replied to Varavara Rao that it was not possible to provide funds to the comrades in Gadchiroli and Chhattisgarh in time because the “enemy” was conducting checks at several roads and railways after demonetisation. “I had no wrong intentions. Funding has been started for the last 7-8 days,” it is said in the letter.
There is another letter in the chargesheet, allegedly by “Surendra” to “Comrade Prakash”. It mentions “Surendra” received funds for making arrangements for the professors from Delhi, Maharashtra and Hyderabad, regarding their participation in “fact-finding committees”.
Another letter by SG (alleged to be Surendra Gadling) to “Sudarshan Da”, mentions “shortage of funds” and requirement of “10.5 L to cover the expenses of IAPL/CRPP programmes and the legal costs for the most urgent cases.”
Gadling has refuted ED’s allegations in the court saying the agency has a “hidden agenda” to implicate him in another “false case” to make it difficult for him to secure a release. He also claimed that the ED complaint was filed last year only after an independent forensic firm based in the US, Arsenal Consulting, had said in a report that evidence was planted in the devices of the accused in the Elgaar Parishad case.