Updated: August 29, 2018 5:59:29 pm
The son of Vernon Gonsalves, a human rights activist who was among the five persons arrested by the Pune Police, has recounted his family’s “helplessness” when their home was raided in a Facebook post. Gonsalves was among five persons arrested for their alleged involvement in organising the Elgar Parishad last year that the police claim was supported by Maoists.
“I experienced a familiar sense of helplessness yesterday morning. Around 6 AM our house was raided by more than 10 people from the Pune Police along with constables from our local MIDC Police Station. They had come to search our house and arrest my father,” Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves said in the Facebook post.
Sagar said the police confiscated all books on Mao and Marx that they found claiming it was “evidence”, and also took away their mobile phones. Sagar also pointed out that a lot of the books taken away were his.
“Our mobiles were taken away, landline phone kept off the hook; our personal CPU was opened, books were taken down one by one, CDs were examined, pen drives were scanned for suspicious material. Any book that had Mao, Naxal or Marx in its name was cross examined and many of them were taken away as evidence. These are books you could very easily have found in a library or online,” he said.
Recalling his father’s arrest in 2007, Gonsalves’ son said the feeling was familiar.
“There was nothing my parents or me could do against the might of the all-powerful State and its machinery,” he said.
“The feeling was familiar because this had happened more than ten years ago in August 2007 when my father was arrested on numerous false charges, brought home at 12 in the night, and our house was raided from 12 midnight to way past 6 AM,” Sagar said.
Asserting that the right to dissent is a fundamental right of all citizens, Sagar accused the state government of “crushing dissent” by using its machinery.
“What we can do as citizens of this country is to protest against this crushing of dissent by the state and its machinery. The systemic oppression of people who raise questions and have an opinion which opposes from the existing narrative. The undemocratic way they are treated and the labels which are being given to them,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what the charges were against the arrested activists or how they were connected to the Elgaar Parishad. They event was organised to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Koregaon which Dalit groups observe as a victory over the forces of the upper caste Peshwas.
Gonsalves was first arrested in 2007 from Mumbai allegedly for being part of the banned CPI (Maoist). The 60-year-old was arrested along with alleged Naxalite Sridhar Srinivasan by the state police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad. They were accused of planning terror acts and infiltrating workers’ unions to create undercover cadres for Maoist activities in industrial and urban areas.
In April 2014, a Nagpur sessions court convicted Gonsalves under the Arms Act, Explosives Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). He was found guilty of possessing arms and sentenced to three years in jail. Under UAPA, court sentenced Gonsalves to five years in jail.
Subsequently, he left his job to teach economics in city colleges, and began working for the rights of labourers in Vidarbha.
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