The Pune City Police on Thursday named former top Maoist commander Mupalla Lakshmana Rao, more popularly known as Ganapathy or Chandrashekhar, as the latest accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, in which many prominent activists and lawyers have been arrested. The Pune police filed a supplementary chargesheet in the case in a city court, pressing charges against Ganapathy, and also against Sudha Bharadwaj, P Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves. Except Ganapathy, all the other accused were arrested by the police last year and are currently lodged in Yerawada jail in judicial custody.
Ganapathy’s addition takes the number of accused in this case to 23. Charges have now been framed against 15 of these, under provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The case pertains to the alleged involvement of the banned Naxalite group, CPI-Maoist, in the organisation of Elgaar Parishad, an evening conclave that took place in Pune on December 31, 2017. Police claim that activities and speeches made at the event and during the previous campaigns, “provoked the masses” and aggravated violence in Koregaon Bhima area on January 1, 2018, when lakhs of people had gathered in the city to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. One person had died in the violence and several others were injured.
Police claim that their investigation had unraveled much wider networks and conspiracies of the banned CPI-Maoist, including even an alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a “Rajiv Gandhi-like” operation. Defence lawyers have denied all charges against them. They said they were not in a position to comment on today’s chargesheet as they were yet to go through the entire document.
In the 1,837-page supplementary chargesheet filed on Thursday, the Pune police have mentioned the purported letters between Ganapathy and Varavara Rao that it claims to have seized during investigation. In those letters, the Hyderabad-based Rao and Ganapathy are supposed to be discussing the arrests made by Pune police and the electronic and other material seized by them. Some of these purported letters have already been produced in the court.
The chargesheet also says that Varavara Rao, Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson, who is also under arrest, and a CPI-Maoist underground member Kishan, alias Prashanto Bose, who is an accused but has not been arrested yet, had conspired and purchased arms and ammunition for carrying out terror attacks by CPI-Maoist cadres, with the help of one Basanta, known to be a senior leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
Varavara Rao, along with Surendra Gadling, another lawyer currently under arrest, is also accused of having passed “crucial information” about security forces to underground operatives of CPI-Maoist. Using this information, the Maoists were able to attack security forces, causing casualties, the chargesheet says.
It accuses Gonsalves, Ferreira and Bharadwaj of having played a role in recruiting members for the banned Maoist group. Police have submitted that Gonsalves was earlier convicted in a UAPA case in 2007, in which he completed the jail term and again continued his association with banned Maoist group. Police also alleged that accused persons carried out the work of the banned CPI-Maoist “secretly” under the cover of “front organisations”.
The 58-year-old Bharadwaj, who studied mathematics at IIT Kanpur before becoming a civil rights activist and trade unionist in Chhattisgarh, where she has worked for close to three decades, was arrested on October 26. The same day 49-year-old Ferreira, an alumnus of St Xaviers College in Mumbai, and 61-year-old Gonsalves were also arrested from Mumbai. Rao, a 78-year-old poet, civil rights activist and Maoist sympathiser from Warangal in Telangana, was arrested on November 17.
Some of the accused in the Elgaar Parishad case had formed “front organisations” to purportedly promote democratic rights, but they used the “cover” of these outfits to help the banned Naxal outfit CPI-Maoist carry out its activities, the Pune City Police has claimed in the supplementary chargesheet filed on Thursday. Police claim
P Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Sudha Bharadwaj are active members of CPI-Maoist.