Mumbai: The Pune police conducted countrywide raids and arrests in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence on Tuesday, two months after the first set of arrests were carried out by them. The raids were termed as a crackdown on urban setup of naxalism whose alleged instigation led to the rioting at Bhima Koregaon of January this year, near Pune during commemoration of war fought between dalit and maratha community 200 years ago.
A top police officer told that information received during probe of earlier five arrests and information got through electronic devices seized led to arrests of these five activists. “We could establish that they are members of core committee of banned Communist Party of India Maoist,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
According to officials, two letters exchanged by Maoist leaders, indicated plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, lead to police action against prominent Left-wing activists. While the 2016 letter suggested that there were deliberations among the Naxals to kill Modi, Shah and Singh, the 2017 letter referred to a plan to carry out a Rajiv Gandhi assassination-type attack on the Prime Minister during one of his roadshows, they claimed.
The second letter was addressed to one "Comrade Prakash" and was found from the residence of a Delhi-based activist, Rona Wilson, on June 6, according to a security official privy to the development. Along with Wilson, four others were also arrested during raids in June by police in different parts of the country in connection with the matter. The letters were reportedly recovered after the anti-Naxal operations in Gadchiroli, in which 39 Maoists were killed, in April.
The searches began at 9 separate locations at 6am and went on till evening when the police teams officially arrested five of those whose houses were searched and seizures were made. The raids were based on the alleged revelations made by the five activits who were arrested by Pune police in June, officials said.
The searches were carried out by teams at residence of human rights activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, writer and activist P. Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves in Mumbai and Arun Ferreira in Thane, civil rights lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Delhi, and activist Stan Swamy in Ranchi.
Searches were also carried out at the residence of civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde in Goa. He was away when the Pune police raided his residence.The police finally paced Navlakha, Rao, Gonsalves, Ferriera and Bhardwaj under arrest based on what came to the fore during the searches, officials said.
"The arrests have been made and they are being brought to Pune. The details of seizures and details pertaining to their activities will be shared later," said Shivajirao Bodke, joint commissioner of police, Pune.
The raids began at the same time at 6 am at all the spots and in Mumbai two teams carried out raid at residences of Gonsalves and Ferreira in Andheri and Thane. Both were also arrested in 2007 for their alleged links with Maoist groups, police said. After his acquittal, Ferreira completed a law degree and started practice as a criminal lawyer in Mumbai, the official said. Ferreira, who earlier lived in suburban Bandra, shifted to Thane along with his family a few years ago, the official said. Police had alleged that Gonsalves, a former professor in a prominent Mumbai college, was a Maoist central committee member. The officials seized computers, data storage devices and papers from the locations. The searches went on till late in the evening and panchnama was underway til late evening.
The Pune Police on June 6 arrested five people for allegedly having close Maoist links. Those arrested include Sudhir Dhawale who was arrested from his house in Mumbai, lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen were picked up from Nagpur and Rona Wilson was arrested from his flat in Munirka in Delhi in simultaneous raids this morning.
Dhawale was one of the organisers of Elgar Parishad, organised to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle on December 31 at Shaniwarwada. There Kabir Kala Manch activists had allegedly made provocative speeches leading to violence at Koregaon Bhima in the district, according to an FIR registered at Vishrambaug police station after the event.
Sudhir Dhawale is a Dalit activist and editor of Marathi magazine Vidrohi while Surendra Gadling, a Nagpur based lawyer, also known as a Dalit and tribal activist, provides legal aids to those who arrested for Maoist links, police said.
Shoma Sen is a professor at Nagpur University and her husband Tushar Kranti Bhattacharya was arrested from Nagpur station for his alleged Naxal links in 2010. Mahesh Raut is a former Prime Minister Rural Development fellow and said to have close Maoist links. Rona Wilson, 47, a native of Kerala, is currently based in Delhi and associated with for Committee for Release of Political Prisoners.