As BJP draws flak for arrest of activists in Bhima Koregaon case, document reveals UPA took a similar line in 2013
The UPA affidavit also noted the 'effectiveness' of the Maoists' propaganda machinery and stated that taking any legal action against these people has a counter effect as it fetches a lot of 'negative publicity' to the government
As the Congress party condemned the BJP over the arrest of several human rights activists for their suspected links with Maoists, a counter-affidavit filed by the then-UPA government has surfaced which shows that the Congress-led government also highlighted the menace of Maoist 'front organisations', or what is being referred to as 'urban Naxals' in the present discourse.
The affidavit said that the CPI (Maoist) has a very effective strategy of using overground workers and armed guerilla fighters to keep the insurgency going, while it "mobilises targeted section of urban population" which are otherwise known as mass organisations.
The mass organisations mostly operate under the garb of human rights organisations, are organically linked to the CPI (Maoist) party structure but maintain separate identities to avoid legal liability, the UPA-II government had told the court in response to a civil writ petition filed by Kishore Samrite (738/2013).
Congress leaders, including party president Rahul Gandhi and former finance minister P Chidambaram, have berated the BJP for the near-simultaneous raids on, and subsequent arrest of five activists saying that BJP was intolerant of dissenting views.
However, ironically, Chidambaram was the Union home minister when the government first went for a major offensive against Maoists in Naxal-hit states following a series of attacks on police, civilians and industries.
The counter-affidavit filed by the UPA-II in 2013 in the Kishore Samrite vs Union of India and Others case also blamed activists, academicians, lawyers and rights' activists for spreading malicious propaganda to defame the State.
In fact, in its affidavit, the Congress-led government not only acknowledged the "threat" from the so-called "frontal organisations", it also called them "more dangerous" than the armed Naxals on ground.
"The ideologues and supporters of the CPI (Maoist) party in cities and towns have undertaken a concerted effort and systematic propaganda against the State to project the state in a poor light and also malign it through disinformation. In fact, it is these ideologues who have kept the Maoist movement alive and are in many ways more dangerous than the cadres of the People's Liberation Guerilla Army."
The UPA affidavit also noted the 'effectiveness' of the Maoists' propaganda machinery and stated that taking any legal action against these people has a counter effect as it fetches a lot of 'negative publicity' to the government. The Supreme Court had dismissed the writ petition while accepting the UPA's submissions, also noting that the government was taking "appropriate action" keeping the sensitivity of the situation in mind.
Meanwhile, as the BJP received flak for the arrest of the rights' activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence of 1 January, and for launching a purported assassination plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi, officials came out with a list, prepared by the then UPA dispensation in 2012, of organisations "having connections with the Maoists".
As many as 128 organisations suspected to be having links with Maoists were identified by the UPA government in 2012 and some of those arrested by the Maharashtra Police in recent crackdown were part of these front groups of the red ultras, officials said.
"The UPA government had, in December 2012, identified 128 organisations with linkages to the CPI (Maoists) and written to all state governments asking them to take action against people involved with these organisations. Seven of those Varavara Rao, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Mahesh Raut arrested so far belong to the organisations appearing in this list," a government official told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
While Rao, Bhardwaj, Ferreira and Gonsalves were arrested on 28 August, Gadling, Wilson and Raut were arrested on 6 June.
Ferreira and Gonsalves, two of the five arrested on 28 August, were held in 2007 too and they had spent several years in prison. Similarly, Rao has been arrested several times by the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Police in the past.
The official said what is under investigation in the current case are the linkages of these individuals with the CPI (Maoist), a banned organisation operating with the devious objective of overthrowing the democratic order, and the support provided by them to the CPI (Maoist).
"Such individuals cannot escape responsibility for aiding and abetting the violent acts committed by CPI (Maoist)'s underground cadres," the official said.
"The CPI (Maoist), towards achievement of its ultimate objective of seizure of political power through protracted peoples war, attaches immense importance to the urban movement which works towards creation of a United Front in support of their movement," another official said.
The urban movement is the main source for providing leadership and resources to the CPI (Maoist), the official said, addign that the responsibility for provision of supplies, technologies, expertise, information and other logistic support is also shouldered by the overground activists in urban centres.
Since 2001, altogether 6,956 civilians and 2,517 security personnel have been killed by the CPI (Maoist), according to a government figure.
Naxal violence has also caused massive damage to infrastructure and virtually stalled development activities in some parts of the country.
The Maharashtra Police has named the organisations to which the arrested people belong: Surendra Gadling (general secretary, Indian Association of People's Lawyers), Rona Wilson (public relation secretary, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners), Sudhir Dhawale (Republican Panthers), Shoma Sen (executive member, Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights) and Mahesh Raut (state convener, Maharashtra, Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan). All were arrested on 6 June.
Those who were arrested on Tuesday are: Varavara Rao (president, Revolutionary Democratic Front), Sudha Bharadwaj (vice-president, Indian Association of People's Lawyers), Gautam Navlakha (leader, People's Union for Democratic Rights), Vernon Gonsalves (ex-secretary, Maharashtra State Committee of CPI/Maoist) and Arun Ferreira (ex-member, Maharashtra State Committee of CPI-Maoist).
With inputs from PTI
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