The Bombay High Court Wednesday questioned an activist arrested in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case on why he had Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace at his home when the book was “about a war in another country”.
The court was hearing the bail plea of Vernon Gonsalves, who was arrested by Pune Police on August 28 last year for his alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist.
Referring to a list submitted by the police of books, documents and CDs allegedly found during a search at the home of Gonsalves, including ‘RCP Review’, ‘Marxist Archives’ and ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ by Kabir Kala Manch, and a documentary titled ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’, Justice Sarang Kotwal said, “Title (of the documents) itself says it is against the state”.
On ‘War and Peace’, Justice Kotwal said: “Why would you keep a book about a war in another country at your home?” The court also asked Gonsalves’ lawyer to address the books and documents found while continuing his arguments Thursday.
Published in full in 1869, ‘War and Peace’ is based on the French invasion of Russia and its aftermath, and is considered a masterpiece of world literature.
Last August, police also arrested activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Vara Vara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha, while alleging that they were part of a larger plan of CPI-Maoist to form a front called “Anti Fascist Front” to overthrow the government.
Explained | What is the status of the Elgaar Parishad case?
The activists have been accused of playing a role in organising the Elgaar Parishad on December 31, 2017, a day before of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. Pune Police have claimed that speeches made at the Parishad were, in part, responsible for inciting violence during the anniversary event, leading to the death of one person.
During arguments led by senior counsel, Mihir Desai for Gonsalves, Justice Kotwal sought detailed information on the contents of an electronic device and CDs allegedly recovered from Gonsalves’ house. Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai said the investigating agency has found nothing in the device and are waiting for a final report from FSL.
Pai said they are relying on material found during the house search. When she said that some CDs were found, Justice Kotwal said: “Have you inspected them? Where is the description of the content found in CDs? What if they are blank? Don’t you think the content of the CDs is important?”
Justice Kotwal also noted that the content of the CDs is not part of the chargesheet. “You have to show the material, which you have, that is incriminating. If you can’t point that out, then what is the point of seizing those CDs? The content should be part of the chargesheet. These CDs merely being a part of muddemal (evidence recovered) will not help you. You will have to show there is incriminating content.”
On Tuesday, Desai argued that the prosecution is relying on two letters allegedly recovered from the laptops of accused activist Rona Wilson and advocate Surendra Gadling in the case against Gonsalves. Desai said both the letters refer to Gonsalves twice each.