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Bhima Koregaon clashes: Activists Gonsalves, Ferreira in police custody

Special court rejects bail pleas of activists under house arrest since August 29.

October 26, 2018 03:51 pm | Updated 10:43 pm IST - Pune

Human rights activist Arun Ferreira being arrested from his residence in Thane after the Pune Sessions Court on October 26, 2018 rejected his bail plea in the Bhima Koregaon violence case.

Human rights activist Arun Ferreira being arrested from his residence in Thane after the Pune Sessions Court on October 26, 2018 rejected his bail plea in the Bhima Koregaon violence case.

A Pune police team took activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves into custody on Friday after a special court here rejected bail pleas filed by them and noted civil rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj.

The three activists, who had been under house arrest since August 29, had on September 28 been given four weeks time by the Supreme Court to seek legal remedies. That period ended today.

They were first arrested on August 28 along with poet-activist Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha for allegedly having links with the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) and purportedly having had a role in the controversial ‘Elgaar Parishad’ and the subsequent Bhima-Koregaon clashes.

“Following the court’s rejection of their bail pleas, our teams took Mr. Ferreira and Mr. Gonsalves into custody from their respective residences in Mumbai,” Pune’s Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodkhe told  The Hindu .

 “They will be produced before a Pune court tomorrow,” he said.Ms. Bharadwaj was likely to be taken into custody on Saturday morning in keeping with legal rules that prohibit taking women into custody after sunset, said a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Earlier on Friday, a special court had rejected applications filed by the three activists’ lawyers seeking a week-long extension of their house arrest thus paving the way for the Pune police to take them into custody again.

 Activist Vernon Gonsalves arriving at his residence along with the police, in Pune. File

Activist Vernon Gonsalves arriving at his residence along with the police, in Pune. File


In a parallel hearing in Mumbai, the Bombay High Court had similarly rejected separate pleas seeking the extension of house arrest sought by Mr. Gonsalves and Mr. Ferreira.In his order rejecting the bail pleas of the three accused, Special Judge K.D. Vadane said that “the investigation against the accused was at a very crucial stage” and that “material collected by the investigating officer prima facie revealed their involvement in alleged unlawful activities against the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India.

”The order took into account the prosecution’s submission of allegedly incriminating letters and e-mails which hinted at the involvement of the three activists in recruiting cadre for the outlawed CPI (Maoist) and purportedly made reference for the need to “assess the damage caused by the seizure of communications by the police”.Arguing against the bail pleas last week, public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar had submitted two e-mails to the court that were allegedly “intercepted communications” exchanged between Maoist leader Ganapathy alias Comrade Chandrashekhar and poet Varavara Rao in July.

The city police has claimed that the mails were allegedly exchanged after the June 6 arrests of activist Sudhir Dhawale, prominent human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling, tribal activist Mahesh Raut, Nagpur University English Professor Shoma Sen and activist Rona Wilson.

Ms. Pawar told the court that the e-mails apparently revealed that top leaders in the Maoist Central Committee (CC) were ‘concerned’ after the June arrest of the five activists and that Ganapathy had allegedly asked Mr. Rao as to how the letters were leaked and how they had found their way into the hands of the Pune police.The contents of the e-mail, quoted by Ms. Pawar in the court, has Ganapathy allegedly urging Mr. Rao to ensure the confidentiality of “this communication channel” and remarking that the five arrests (of Mr. Gadling and the others) had caused a lot of damage to the movement and that urgent steps were needed to boost the morale of the cadre.

Ms. Bharadwaj’s counsel had earlier argued that the so-called Maoist communications were of “dubious authenticity”.Similarly, lawyers representing Ms. Sen and Advocate Gadling, during their bail pleas, had also separately submitted that there was nothing in the so-called Maoist communications produced by the Pune police to incriminate the activists and asserted that the supposedly ‘incriminating’ evidence against their clients was “manufactured”.

Ms. Bharadwaj, Mr. Ferreira and Mr. Gonsalves had filed their bail pleas in the Pune sessions court in the second week of October.Earlier this week, the Hyderabad High Court extended Mr. Rao’s house arrest period by three weeks while Mr. Navlakha’s arrest has already been quashed by the Delhi High Court.

The two countrywide swoops by the Pune police, in June and in August, that led to the arrest of the 10 persons, were based on an FIR registered at the city’s Vishrambaug Wada police station in connection with ostensibly provocative speeches made during the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ held on December 31, 2017 — a day before clashes erupted in Bhima-Koregaon.

The FIR was based on a complaint by one Tushar Damgude against six participants, including Mr. Dhawale, of the Parishad. Those named in the FIR were members of the Kabir Kala Manch — a radical Dalit cultural troupe.

The complainant had accused the KKM activists of making a number of “inflammatory” speeches and delivering “socially divisive” presentations during the course of the troupe’s performance and recitals at the ‘Elgaar Parishad’, which lasted almost eight hours and witnessed the participation of thousands of persons from more than 250 social outfits including several Ambedkarite and leftist groups across Maharashtra.

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