The Pune city police have arrested suspected members of the banned Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist) in connection with the Elgaar Parishad held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31. The event, police said, allegedly led to the violence on January 1, during the 200th year celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The arrests were made in Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi.
The arrested, who police claim are “top urban Maoist operatives”, include an Elgaar Parishad organiser Sudhir Dhawale, leader of Republican Panthers Jati Antachi Chalwal, Delhi-based Rona Wilson of Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) and Nagpur-based lawyer Surendra Gadling of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL).
Searches were on at the residence of Nagpur university professor Shoma Sen in Bharat Nagar, Nagpur and Mahesh Raut, former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRD), in East Nagur. The chances of them being arrested are likely, said police sources.
Police sources said that following the forensic analysis of electronic and other evidence obtained during the search operations, four teams of Pune city police were dispatched to Mumbai, Delhi and Nagpur on Tuesday. Police teams started arresting the suspects in the early hours of Wednesday. Dhawale was picked up from his office-cum-residence in Govandi, Mumbai around 6 am. Wilson was picked from Munrika area in Delhi and Gadling from North Nagpur.
A top police official said that suspects would be produced in local courts for seeking transit remand and then will be brought to Pune for further investigation. A police officer confirmed that Potdar, who is a close aide of Dhawale and KKM artists from Pune, has not been arrested. Members of the Bhima Koregaon Shauryadin Prerna Abhiyan, which organised the Elgaar Parishad, have condemned the police action.
Earlier, the Pune city police had on April 17 conducted searches at the residence of Dhawale, Wilson, Gadling, Elgaar Parishad organizer Harshali Potdar, and also Pune-based Sagar Gorkhe, Deepak Dhengle, Ramesh Gaichor and his wife Jyoti Jagtap, all artists of “cultural group” Kabir Kala Manch (KKM).
A complaint lodged by one Tushar Damgude at the Vishrambag police station had accused Dhawale, Potdar and members of KKM of promoting enmity and disturbing peace. The complainant had also alleged that the suspects, as per the strategy of banned CPI-Maoist, tried to mislead Dalits and incite violence.
About the suspects:
Rona Wilson: A native of Kerala, Wilson is currently based in Delhi and is the public relations secretary of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP). He has been active in campaigning against laws like UAPA and Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). He is supposed to be a close aide of Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, who was arrested in May 2014 and convicted and sentenced him to life imprisonment by a Gadchiroli court in March last year.
Police sources said after Saibaba’s conviction, Wilson allegedly took over his task of “co-ordination” between left wing extremist outfits in urban and jungle areas of country and also the international network.
Sudhir Dhawale: A Dalit activist and editor of Marathi magazine ‘Vidrohi’, Dhawale founded the Republican Panthers Jatiantachi Chawal to provide a common political platform for Dalits. He also launched a movement called Radical Ambedkar. He was previously arrested in January 2011 on charges of sedition for his alleged Maoist links. However, he was acquitted of all charges by a Gondia court in May 2014. Dhawale was active in organising the Elgaar Parishad in Pune.
Surendra Gadling: Based in Nagpur, Gadling, a lawyer, is general secretary of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers. Known to be a tribal and Dalit rights activist, he has been providing legal aid to those arrested for Maoist links, including Saibaba and Dhawale. He had provided legal help to Kabir Kala Manch artists who had been questioned by Nagpur police in September 2013 on allegations of carrying banned literature.
Shoma Sena: Nagpur-based activist Shoma Sen is a professor for English subject at the Nagpur University. She has been under the police scanner of investigating agencies for her alleged links with the left wing extremists. She was present for the Elgaar Parishad in Pune. Her husband Tusharkanti Bhattacharya was arrested last in August year by the Gujrat police in connection with a 2010 case related to Maoist activities but was later released on bail.
Mahesh Raut: Mahesh is a former Prime Minister Rural Development (PMRD) Fellow. He is alleged to be the link between jungle operatives and urban outfits of the Maoists. He has been active in the Maoist affected Gadchiroli district for last few years. In April 2013, when Raut was a PMRD fellow, he was detained by the Gadhchiroli police with his aide Harshali Potdar, after two Maoists arrested from Koinvarshi village revealed that the duo was supposed to accompany them to meet senior Maoist leaders in jungles. But Raut and Potdar were not arrested by the police and were released after questioning. Raut had recently shifted to Nagpur.