Elgar Parishad case: Pune Police to seek FBI help to retrieve data

P. Varavara Rao outside Lashkar police station in Pune in November last year.   | Photo Credit: Jignesh Mistry

The Pune Police will seek forensic aid from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to retrieve data from an allegedly damaged hard disk seized from the house of poet-activist P. Varavara Rao, one of the nine activists and intellectuals arrested for his alleged connection to the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case and links with the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Shivaji Pawar, the investigating officer in the case, said an official from the State police and a forensics expert will act as “carriers” of the damaged hard disk to the FBI Laboratory .

The Union Home Ministry has already granted the necessary approvals, said authorities.

The hard disk, seized by the police from Mr. Rao’s house during a raid in August 2018, was earlier sent to four forensic laboratories in the country, which failed to recover any data. According to sources, attempts to retrieve data from the disk at a Pune-based laboratory proved unsuccessful, following which it was sent to the Mumbai-based Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratories and then to forensic labs in Gujarat and Hyderabad.

Mr. Rao, along with activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Sudhir Dhawale are incarcerated in Pune’s Yerwada jail.

The Pune Police’s case rests on an FIR registered at the Vishrambaug police station in January 2018 in connection with the Elgar Parishad held at Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2017, as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle.

The FIR, based on a complaint by one Tushar Damgude in the immediate aftermath of the violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018, was initially lodged against six participants in the Parishad, including Mr. Dhawale. Those named in the FIR were members of the Kabir Kala Manch, a radical Dalit cultural troupe.

The complainant had accused the Manch activists of making “inflammatory” speeches and delivering “socially divisive” presentations during their performance and recitals at the Elgar Parishad. The event had lasted nearly eight hours and witnessed the participation of thousands from more than 250 progressive social outfits.

The raids and subsequent arrests of the activists and academics were based on this FIR, with the Pune Police claiming to have extended the scope of their investigations to unearth the activists’ alleged Maoist links.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 8:56:32 AM |

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