On 8 January, 37-year-old Tushar Damgude filed a First Information Report (FIR) at the Vishrambag Police Station in Sangli over the Elgar Parishad — a conference held in Shaniwar Wada near Pune — on 31 December, 2017, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
It is this FIR that started it all. On the basis of Damgude's complaint, teams of the Pune Police conducted searches at the homes of eight people in April this year for suspected Maoist links.
And it is on the basis of this complaint that teams of the Pune Police on Tuesday conducted multi-city raids on the homes of several prominent activists and arrested at least five of them.
In the FIR, Damgude complained of how the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad event had repeatedly been making "malicious" statements.
He also alleged that one of the participants, Sudhir Dhawale, made the following statement at the conference: "Jab julm ho to, bagawat honi chahiyee shahar main, jab julm ho tom bagawat honi chahiye shahar main...aur agar bagawat na ho to, behatar hai kee, rat dhalane se pahele ye shahar jal ke rakh ho jaye...ye shahar jal ke rakh ho jaye (When a crime takes place, there should be rebellion in the city. If rebellion does not take place, it is better that the city is burnt to ashes before nightfall)."
In the FIR, the complainant alleged that some provocative and "objectionable" books had been sold during the programme, and also that the participants had raised provocative slogans, engaged in "songs and road-drama (sic)" and tried to distort history.
Damgude also claimed that this was being done to spread Maoist ideologies among the "depressed class" and "misdirect or misguide them and turn them towards unconstitutional violence activities (sic)". He alleged that it was this conference that was responsible for the violence in Bhima Koregaon.
The raids on Tuesday were carried out as part of the investigation into the violence between Dalits and upper-caste members in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune after the Elgaar Parishad on 31 December.
Near simultaneous searches were carried out at the homes of prominent Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Farreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist and journalist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi.
Subsequently, Rao, Bhardwaj, Farreira, Gonzalves and Navalakha were arrested under Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code, which relates to promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, a senior official said.
Those arrested were charged with a few other sections of the Indian Penal Code as well as sections under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their "alleged Naxal activities", the police official said, without elaborating. He added that the home of Father Stan Swamy, a tribal leader in Jharkhand, was also searched, but he was not detained.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Aug 29, 2018 22:43:59 IST