New Delhi: At least four of the five left-wing activists arrested in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence by the Pune Police on Tuesday were linked to organisations put under the scanner by the UPA-II regime headed by Manmohan Singh. Government sources told Firstpost that in December 2012, the UPA government wrote a missive to all the states to take appropriate action against persons involved with 128 organisations it had identified having deep ties with CPI (Maoist).
While the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that they should be kept under house arrest till 6 September, observing that dissent was the safety valve of democracy, sources said three other activists arrested in June also featured on the list. "A total of seven of those picked up since June in the Bhima Koregaon riot case belong to organisations appearing on the list of 128 sent by the UPA-II government to the states. These names are Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonzalves, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira and Mahesh Raut," sources said.
Rao is the president of Revolutionary Democratic Front, Bharadwaj is general secretary of the Chhattisgarh People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and also the founder of Janhit; Ferreira is former member of the Maharashtra State Committee of CPI (Maoist), said a senior government officer aware of the investigation being carried out by the Pune Police in the Bhima Koregaon case. He also said Gadling is general secretary of the Indian Association of People's Lawyers, while Wilson is public relations secretary of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP).
An intelligence note said, "CRPP has actively taken up issues of incarcerated Maoists by equating them with 'political prisoners' being targeted for their belief in a particular ideology. The so-called committee has undertaken propaganda programmes for release of convicted Maoists, including GN Saibaba, a Delhi University professor who was sentenced for life by the Gadchiroli district court last year. Another accused, Gadling is a lawyer who specialises in the legal defence of such Maoist prisoners and is interestingly the legal counsel of Saibaba in the appeal against his conviction. His organisation specially takes up Maoist-related cases and receives funds from CPI (Maoist). Raut is believed to be the Maoist point man for mobilising tribals in Gadchiroli district over the traditional Maoist issue of displacement due to mining. The role of these accused in supporting and implementing the Maoist agenda was known to security agencies, however, the present case of Bhima Koregaon violence seems to have armed the police with irrefutable evidence to seek their conviction as well as to initiate action against similar characters in the urban sphere."
It will be a major challenge for the Pune Police to prove the allegations and produce the evidence to satisfy the court. Government sources claimed that the Pune Police has some digital conversations and other evidence to allegedly link all the arrested activists with the Bhima Koregaon riots case. Although, the police did not reveal the exact charges against them, sources dealing with anti-Naxal operation said they are investigating the links of the Bhima Koregaon case with CPI (Maoist).
Consequent to the Bhima Koregaon riots on 31 December, 2017, an FIR was registered on 1 January, 2018 at Vishrambaug Police Station in Pune. Subsequently, the police during raids had seized computers, laptops and mobile phones. Five people were arrested on 6 June, 2018 and government sources claimed they have found evidence that the Bhima Koregaon riots were funded by Maoists.
"The mobilisation and funding was carried out through some of these activists, who have been picked up in June and on 28 August. Ferreira and Vernon, two of the five arrested on 28 August 2018 were arrested earlier by the Maharashtra Police in 2007 and spent several years in prison. Similarly, Rao has been also been arrested several times by the Andhra/Telangana Police in the past," sources said.
Updated Date: Aug 30, 2018 08:03 AM