The Supreme Court Wednesday granted bail to an alleged top Maoist Angela Sontakke, who was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad in April 2011.
A SC Bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Prafulla Pant passed an order in this regard Wednesday. Angela was alleged to be the secretary of the Golden Corridor Committee of the banned CPI-Maoist. According to the ATS, this Golden Corridor Committee aimed at spreading the Maoist ideology of armed struggle against the government and recruit new members for the banned outfit from the urban areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra, including cities like Pune, Mumbai, Thane, Surat, Ahmedabad.
Angela was allegedly operating from a house in Paud area in Pune district. She is lodged in the Byculla Women’s Prison in Mumbai for the last five years. Angela was also named as accused in cases related to Maoism in Nagpur and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra.
“Angela was booked in as many as 18 cases. She was acquitted in 14 cases, discharged in two and granted bail in one case. In this UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) case registered by ATS, she is in jail for last five years and the trial has not started. The SC has granted bail to her in this 18th case now,” said Angela’s lawyer Gautam Bhatia, while speaking to The Indian Express.
The ATS had arrested Angela from Thane in April 2011 along with six others including Sushma Ramteke, Anuradha Sonule, Mayuri Bhagat, all three from Chandraput, Jyoti Chorge of Pune, Siddhartha Bhosale and Deepak Dhengle also from Pune and active members of city based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM).
All were booked under the stringent UAPA. Then, ATS also booked eight more persons in this case including Angela’s husband and top Maoist Milind Teltumbde, a girl named Jyoti and KKM artists – Sheetal Sathe, her husband Sachin Mali, Ramesh Gaychor, Sagar Gorkhe, Prashant Kamble and Santosh Shelar.
ATS alleged that Angela and Milind allegedly indoctrinated the KKM artists and other city youths towards Maoist ideology. Investigators even say that suspects Shelar and Kamble of KKM have joined the armed cadres of Maoists in jungles.
Around March 23, 2012, on the occasion of Shahid Din (death anniversary of freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev), posters were allegedly put by CPI-Maoist operatives at strategic locations in Pune city, demanding unconditional release of “political prisoners” including Angela.
Meanwhile, in January 2013, the Bombay High Court granted bail to the six suspects arrested with Angela, including Dhengle and Bhosle of KKM. The HC order stated that suspects could be “sympathizers of Maoist philosophy” but “none can be said to be active members of banned Communist Party of India (Maoist)”
Meanwhile, after remaining underground for over a year, suspects Sheetal and Sachin surrendered on April 2, 2013, by staging “Satyagraha” in front of Mantralaya in Mumbai, in the presence of senior Dalit leaders like Prakash and communist leader Bhalchandra Kango. After a few days Ramesh and Sagar of KKM surrendered similarly. Sheetal was granted bail as she was pregnant.
Meanwhile, the ATS submitted charge sheet before the court alleging that these four KKM members including Sheetal had participated in arms training with about 150 naxals in jungle areas of Gadchiroli between November 2011 and April 2012, while they were on the run. ATS recorded statements of three surrendered naxals who reportedly identified the KKM artists as active members of CPI-Maoists.
Apparently, the HC rejected the bail pleas of Sachin, Sagar and Ramesh. Their bail application is likely to come up for hearing in SC in July this year. Meanwhile, Sheetal separated from KKM. She rejected all allegations saying these surrendered naxals are “paid witnesses” who can name anyone at the instructions of police.
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