The trail leading to Bhima-Koregaon violence probe also revealed an alleged Maoist plot of Rajiv Gandhi-style assassination of PM Modi.
In a continuation of a crackdown on Elgar Parishad, a public meeting held at Pune a day prior to the Bhima-Koregaon violence that prompted the violent Maharashtra Bandh, the Pune police have arrested five activists on Tuesday. The police claimed that the five activists have a connection with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
The five lawyers/activists namely, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha and revolutionary writer P Varavara Rao were arrested in a trail of multi-city raids that began on Tuesday morning. These activists were taken into custody from Faridabad, Thane, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad, respectively. The Joint CP of Pune Shivaji Bodhke said that the police have made the arrests on the basis of “incriminating evidence collected during the investigation and documents recovered from the five activists arrested on June 6.”
Post Bhima-Koregaon violence, the police action were prompted by two FIRs filed in January this year against Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani and Student Leader Umar Khalid and some other members for provocative statements at Elgar Parishad. According to the police, the statement made led to the incitement of violence. When the probe progressed, the police found that some of the members were in touch with the banned CPI(Maoist). This trail led to the June 6 raids and arrests of Sudhir Dhawale- editor of Marathi magazine ‘Vidrohi’ (rebel), Lawyer Surendra Gadling, Nagpur University Professor Shoma Sena, former PMRD fellow Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson- allegedly a close aide of arrested JNU professor GN Saibaba. Currently, all the arrested are in Yerwada jail. The trail also revealed an alleged Maoist plot of Rajiv Gandhi-style assassination of PM Modi.
According to the police, the names of all the five arrested early Tuesday morning figured during the investigation of the above-arrested people. Here is the background of the arrested people.
A familiar face for the journalists, lawyers and activists who have worked in Chhattisgarh, Sudha Bharadwaj is a human rights lawyer. She has spent nearly 30 years in Chhattisgarh fighting the cases of Dalits, farmers, labourers and tribals against the land acquisition. Bharadwaj is also associated with the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) as a national secretary. Apart from PUCL, she has been associated with Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, which advocated the protection of the cultural identity of the state and rights of workers and peasants.
However, recently she came under the fire allegedly for sympathizing with Maoists and their methods of violent insurgencies. There were claims that she allegedly received money from them. However, Bharadwaj has denied these allegations. Though, she has time and again said that she had appeared for Adivasis in fake encounter cases and cases against Human Rights activists, she has acted with professional integrity and courage.
Arun Ferreira was arrested from his Thane residence on Tuesday. A Mumbai based human rights activist-lawyer, Ferreira has been arrested before as well in connection with the Naxalites. In 2007, he was taken into custody on the charges of being a Naxal operative; which were dropped later and he was acquitted. As many as 11 cases were registered against him in the subsequent four years under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the Arms Act and even sedition. After the acquittal in 2011, he was arrested again. However, he was granted bail soon.
After getting out of jail, Ferreira received his degree from Siddharth Law college and became a practising lawyer since December 2016. He also became a part of the ‘Indian Association of People’s Lawyer and the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights.
Vernon Gonsalves was arrested from Mumbai. Before the arrest, he used to work as a professor of Business Organization at a prominent Mumbai College. The security agencies labelled him as an ex-central committee member and former secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of Naxalites outfits. He was arrested in 2007 but was convicted in June 2013 under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act and Arms Act. Though he was charged in 20 cases, he was declared not guilty in 17 cases as the prosecution couldn’t furnish any evidence against him.
However, as he had already served the prison period sentenced to him, he was released immediately.
Gautam Navlakha was arrested from Delhi. A very well-known journalist, Navlakha has also served as consultant editor at Economic and Political Weekly. Apart from journalism, he was involved in activism for the civil and human right. He was also actively involved with People’s Union for Democratic Right.
As a journalist and writer, he has visited the troubled state of Kashmir many times and written about the human right violation incidents. He was a convenor of International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir. He was charged with Section 144 for unlawful assembly with an intent to disrupt the peace.
P Varavara Rao:
P Varavara Rao was arrested from his Hyderabad Residence. The renowned poet, journalist, literary critic, and public speaker from Telangana is considered one of the best Marxist critics in Telugu literature. He founded Srujana (creation), a forum for modern literature in Telugu in 1966. He was one of the founders of Viplava Rachayitala Sangam (Revolutionary Writers’ Association), popularly known by its acronym Virasam. The Virasam allegedly supports and propagates Naxalite ideology and practice.
In 1973, he was arrested by the Andhra Pradesh police under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). However, he was released after a month and a half. In 1974, he along with 41 others were arrested in a conspiracy case, known as Secunderabad Conspiracy Case. He was acquitted in February 1989, after 15 years of prolonged and tiresome trial. He was also arrested during the emergency.
In 2001, the then Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Peoples War announced the names of Varavara Rao and Gaddar as its emissaries to work out modalities for the proposed peace talks with Telugu Desam Party govt. in Andhra Pradesh.