“Why read War and Peace?”: Bombay HC questions Bhima-Koregaon accused Vernon Gonsalves

Bombay HC

Mumbai | The Bombay High Court found War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy “objectionable” has questioned Bhima-Koregaon accused on why he has read it.

A single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal hearing the bail plea of Bhima Koregaon violence accused Vernon Gonsalves and others also said that books like Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and CDs prima facie indicated they contained some material against the State.

“The title of the CD Rajya Daman Virodhi itself suggests it has something against the state while War and Peace is about a war in another country. Why did you [Gonsalves] keep objectionable material such as books like War and Peace… at home? You will have to explain this,” said justice Kotwal.

The court was hearing bail pleas of Gonsalves and five others, who were arrested last year for allegedly making provocation speeches on December 31, 2017.

Vernon Gonsalves’s lawyer Mihir Desai said that there was no evidence of anything being recovered from is house in Andheri.

Desai said Pune police have seized a CD of Jai Bhima Comrade documentary and some books from Gonzalves’s house. The CDs that have been seized are “Marxist Archives”, “Rajya Daman Virodhi” released by the Kabir Kala Manch, and book “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.

The judge stated that the “nature” of the books suggests he is part of some banned organisation.

The Pune police, which is probing the case, earlier claimed Tolstoy’s book was part of the “highly incriminating evidence” it seized from Gonsalves’s house.

Desai then argued, “Mere possession does not make anyone a terrorist.”

Justice Kotwal agreed with him even as he asked Gonsalves to explain why he kept such material at home. He said the police, too, have to do “much explaining” to convince the court that the material found in the CDs and books is incriminatory.

They are probing alleged Maoist links of Gonsalves and the five others, who have been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for organising a gathering called Elgar Parishad ahead of the event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018.

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