In the second such operation in three months, Pune police carried out simultaneous searches at multiple locations across the country and arrested a few prominent activists in connection with its investigations into the alleged Maoist involvement in the organisation of Elgaar Parishad on December 31 last year.
Police claim the speeches made at the Elgaar Parishad, a day ahead of the bicentennial celebration of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, were one of the triggers for the violence that was witnessed in and around Pune the next day.
In an early morning swoop, teams of Pune police landed on the doorsteps of activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, writer and activist P Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, civil rights lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, Stan Swamy in Ranchi and Anand Teltumbde in Goa and searched their premises.
Some of them had already been arrested by afternoon, and others were likely to be arrested by the end of the day. Joint Police commissioner with Pune city police Shivaji Bhodke said Bhardwaj and Varavara Rao had been arrested. “More arrests are likely,” he said. The arrested persons are likely to be produced in a city court on Wednesday.
In Goa, writer and civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde, who teaches at the Goa Institute of Management, was the target of Pune police searches. Anand was not at home when the police came looking for him and he was informed about the raid by his institute’s director.
“The house in Goa was locked but they (Pune police team) opened it and carried out a search. I have not been arrested thus far,” Anand told The Indian Express.
Today’s searches come about three months after a similar operation on June 6, in which the Pune police had arrested five “urban Maoist operatives” from Delhi, Nagpur and Mumbai. Those arrested at that time included Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen and Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson of the Committee of Release of Political Prisoners.
Others to be arrested in June were Sudhir Dhawale, leader of Mumbai-based Republican Panthers Jati Antachi Chalwal, Nagpur lawyer Surendra Gadling of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, and Mahesh Raut who had in the past been Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow.
Police claim that today’s searches at the six places were a result of the interrogation of these arrested people, who are currently lodged at Yervada central prison in Pune in magisterial custody. They have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
While producing them in court a day after their arrests in June, police had claimed to have seized material that pointed to a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a “Rajiv Gandhi-like manner”.
The Elgaar Parishad was organised to commemorate the 200thanniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon which happened on January 1 in 1818, in which a British army comprising of a large number of Dalit soldiers is said to have defeated the Peshwas. Every year on January 1, thousands of Dalits assemble in Pune and march to the village of Koregaon Bhima which has a war memorial (Jaystambh) in memory of those who died in that battle.
Among those who spoke at Elgaar Parishad were Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and JNU student Umar Khalid. Police claim their investigations had shown that banned Maoist groups were involved in financing and organising the Elgaar Parishad event.