The Pune police have carried out searches at five places at the residences of some prominent activists and a lawyer in connection with their alleged links to the Bhima-Koregaon commemorative program on January 1. The activists include Rona Wilson (Delhi) and lawyer Surendra Gadling (Nagpur). The residences of Sudhir Dhawale and Harshali Potdar, Jyoti Jagtap and Ramesh Gaichore and Dhawala Dengle are being searched in Pune.
A senior police official said, “An offence had been registered at Pune against Kabir Kalamanch in connection with alleged provocative speeches during Elgar Parishad at Pune on January 1. The program had been organized on the occasion of Bhima-Koregaon commemoration. We already had some evidence of Maoist links to the events connected Bhima-Koregaon. The searches on Tuesday are to check for further evidence in the matter.”
A team of Pune police led by Deputy Commissioner of Police Pravin Munde and investigating officer Shivaji Pawar searched Wilson’s residence in Delhi, while Pune Assistant Commissioner of Police Ganesh Gawade and Nagpur DCP Suresh Bawche searched Gadling’s residence in Nagpur.
Gadling, who has often pleaded cases of Maoist leaders, including G N Saibaba, had been on police radar for long. Wilson, too, is a Maoist activist in police records. Potdar was detained in Gadchiroli’s interiors along with then Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) Mahesh Raut in 2013 where they were suspected to have gone to meet a senior Naxal leader.
Dhawale was also earlier arrested in connection with alleged Maoist links. Asked if the searched would be followed by arrests, the official said, “the first priority is to collect evidence.”
Activist Harshali Potdar, who has been named by Pune police for organising the Elgar Parishad at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, claimed that they were being targetted by the state administration.
“These searches are a clear sign of targeting by the government as we have been demanding the arrest of Sambhaji Bhide for his involvement in the violence on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon. We have submitted proof of his involvement and have also met the Chief Minister, who had assured of action but nothing has been done,” said Potdar.
Sudhir Dhawale, Dalit activist and editor of Vidrohi magazine, was also among those named by police for organising the December 31 event. Dhawale’s office in Govandi was among the places raided by the Pune police. While Dhawale is admitted to a hospital undergoing surgery, a member of his team at the Govandi office said that the raids began at 6am and went on till 12pm. The Pune police accompanied by officials of Deonar police conducted the search at the office and seized three laptops, pamphlets and books.
Sudhir Dhawale claimed that the Pune police had approached the court in March regarding issuance of a search warrant but conducted the search only now, following the call given by activists to gherao Vidhan Sabha if Sambhaji Bhide is not arrested for his alleged involvement in the violence at Bhima Koregaon against Dalits. “The searches are to pressurise us to back away from our demand of Bhide’s arrest or from protesting for it,” he said.
with inputs from Sadaf Modak