The prosecution in the Elgaar Parishad case on Thursday alleged that Delhi-based activist Gautam Navlakha, one of the 23 accused in the case, was involved in a “fact-finding (FF) mission” as per instructions of the banned CPI-Maoist to create “false propaganda” that innocent people were being killed by state and paramilitary forces.
The prosecution made these claims while opposing the anticipatory bail application filed by Navlakha in a special court in Pune. Navlakha is among the 23 accused who, according to Pune City Police, have active links with the CPI-Maoist.
The defence and prosecution also argued over a letter that police claimed to have recovered from both Navlakha and co-accused Rona Wilson. The letter, dated July 30, 2017, is written by one ‘Sudarshan’ to ‘Gautam’, who, according to the prosecution, is Navlakha himself.
The letter purportedly starts with: ‘Dear Comrade Gautam ji, Red salutes! First of all, the CPI (Maoist) Central Committee pays humble tribute to the revolutionary People’s war’.
It allegedly goes on to state, ‘….The CC leadership reiterates its commitment in providing all forms of support (moral, financial, ideological) to our party comrades and activists who participate in and coordinate various FF missions across the country including J&K…..Please constitute a team to expose the mass murders committed by the state and paramilitary forces within Sukma and Bijapur in the last few months. One or more members of village committees will also reach the designated locations between August 10 and 28. Please coordinate with Comrade Raghunath and Comrade Surendra to finalise the agenda and financial arrangements for organising this FF mission…’.
Defence lawyer Ragini Ahuja argued that fact-finding was a completely legal activity, adding that there was no evidence that any such ‘fact-finding’ actually took place. She pointed out that the planning commission of the government had also formed fact-finding groups to determine the scope of development in areas affected by left-wing extremism. “If the government also does fact-finding, then how can it be called an illegal activity?” she said.
Prosecution lawyer Ujjwala Pawar argued that as per the letter, Navlakha received instructions from the central committee (CC) leadership of the CPI-Maoist about constituting a team for the fact-finding mission. Pawar claimed that the mission’s agenda was “false propaganda” about innocent people being killed by state and paramilitary forces.
Ahuja further argued that Navlakha’s custody was not required as he was a journalist and peace activist who had served as an interlocutor when five persons were abducted by Maoists in 2011. Ahuja said Navlakha has openly opposed Maoist violence and, citing details of an interview of Maoist leader Ganpathy taken by Navlakha, Ahuja argued that he was in touch with certain persons as a journalist.
Pawar, however, countered this with allegations that Navlakha was a deshdrohi (anti-national) who tried to link the banned CPI-Maoist with terror group Hizbul Mujahideen. She cited a purported document seized from a co-accused, which stated that Navlakha allegedly introduced himself to Shakil Bakshi, chairman of the Islamic Student’s League in Srinagar in the mid-2000s, and told him that the “Maoist party wants to establish contact and a working relationship with the HM.”
Pawar said custodial interrogation of Navlakha was needed to probe his links with HM and CPI-Maoist, as well as his meetings with underground operatives, details of the recruitment and finance for banned groups, and also to investigate the documents allegedly seized from his possession, which were submitted to the court in a sealed envelope.
Ahuja objected to the submission of these documents in a sealed envelope, stating that if the material was recovered from Navlakha’s possession, it should be shown to her. The court noted her objection.
“There is no evidence to show Navlakha’s involvement in any terrorist act. At the most… what prosecution has is fact-finding, which is not illegal,” said the defence lawyer.
The special court will take a decision on Navlakha’s anticipatory bail plea on November 12.