A day after the Supreme Court put five alleged “urban Maoists” arrested by the Pune city police under house arrest, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Jitendra Awhad turned up at the residence of Arun Ferreira in Thane.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Awhad said there was no specific purpose behind his visit. “It was a short visit of about five minutes, just to show concern. My party and I believe that Arun and others are not Maoists and have been framed.”
Interestingly, Ferreira was first arrested for his alleged Maoist links by the state police under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in 2007, when a coalition government of Congress and NCP was in power. He was acquitted after spending about four years in prison. Asked about it, Awhad said, “It (Ferreira’s arrest) was a mistake. I will not defend my party.”
Awhad said 90 per cent of the country was against fascism. “So there is nothing wrong if somebody is working against fascism. You cannot call anybody working against fascism a Maoist,” he said.
Awhad also said he was not stopped by police as a person under house arrest is allowed to meet visitors. Police sources said there was an argument on whether to allow Awhad to meet Ferreira during house arrest.
Meanwhile, all five suspects, including Arun and Vernon Gonsalves of Mumbai, Sudha Bharadwaj of Faridabad, Gautam Navlakha of New Delhi, who were arrested on August 28, were on Thursday placed under house arrest. Pune police sleuths, along with local policemen, were deployed at the houses of the suspects, confirmed Deputy Commissioner of Police Suhas Bavche. “Their movements will be restricted within the house,” said Bavche.
Police said they have not only seized digital material from the suspects but also a huge number of documents during the searches on Tuesday at the residence of the suspects, booked in the offence lodged in connection with the Elgaar Parishad held in Pune on December 31, 2017. Loads of documents having the mark of banned CPI-Maoist were recovered from P Varavara Rao, police claimed, saying these documents were part of “Maowadi Prachar Sahitya (propaganda literature)”.
A press release issued by the Pune city police on Wednesday said in the searches at nine places in Mumbai, Thane. Faridabad, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Ranchi, “hard disks, laptops, pen drives, memory cards, mobile phones, sim cards, (and) incriminating documents” had been seized.
The digital material had been sent to the Forensic Science Lab (FSL) for obtaining cloned copies of the data, police said.
Meanwhile, the number of accused persons in the case has reached 22. The FIR initially named Harshali Potdar, Sudhir Dhawale of Republican Panthers (RP), Mumbai and Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap and Deepak Dhengle of the Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch.
Later, the names of those arrested on June 6 — Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, and Mahesh Raut, apart from Dhawale — was added to the FIR.
Milind Teltumbde, Prakash alias Ritupam Goswami, Manglu and Deepu were also named as accused some time later.
Then, based on a letter recovered from Wilson, police added the name of an “underground” operative, Comrade Kishan alias Prashanti Bose, secretary of ERB of CPI-Maoist, as accused no. 15 in this case.
Accused 16 to 21 happen to be Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, who were arrested on Tuesday. Accused number 21 is Anand Teltumbde of Goa, who has not been arrested yet. Stan Swamy, whose house in Ranchi was searched but who was not arrested, is accused number 22.
Meanwhile, Shoma Sena and Gadling have now filed a bail application before a special court in Pune. The bail plea will be heard on September 6.