MUMBAI: Five suspected Maoist activists were arrested by the Pune police from Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi on Wednesday, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), in connection with the January 1 Bhima-Koregaon riots.
While the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) condemned the arrests, Dalit activists raised questions on why police is avoiding arrest of Hindutva icon Sambhaji Bhide in the case.
The suspected members of the banned Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist) were arrested in simultaneous raids conducted across Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi. The raids started early in the morning at around 6 am, while in some cases the arrests were delayed till post noon due to procedural delays.
Those arrested include Rona Wilson from Delhi, Adv Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut and Prof Shoma Sen from Nagpur and Sudhir Dhawale from Mumbai. All of them had participated, some as organizers, in the “Elgaar Parishad” that was held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, a day prior to the Bhima-Koregaon riots.
All of them have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and transit remands have been sought. They will be brought to Pune by tonight and after thorough investigation senior police officials would hold a press conference on Thursday to share more information, sources have said.
These arrests were made after police establish money trail between Naxals and their sympathizers and organizers of the Elgar Parishad. Searches were conducted against some of those arrested today like Dhawale. Evidences were collected from those raids, police said. Their interrogation will now help the police join missing links and build a strong case, a senior official told the New Indian Express on condition of anonymity.
Terming the arrested persons as “top urban Maoist operatives”, a police officer said that they are close to breaking down the urban design of the Maoists and the arrests is a step closer to the goal.
While Sudhir Dhawale is one of the organizers of the Elgaar Parishad and leader of Dalit movements like Republican Panthers as well as Jati Antachi Chalwal, Delhi-based Rona Wilson heads the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP). Nagpur-based lawyer Surendra Gadling is part of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), while the Nagpur university professor Shoma Sen’s husband Tusharkanti Bhattacharya was arrested last in August year by the Gujrat police in connection with a 2010 case related to Maoist activities but was later released on bail. Mahesh Raut, a former Prime Minister Rural Development Fellow (PMRD), had been arrested earlier for possessing Maoist literature in Gadchiroli.
While Dhawale was picked up from his office-cum-residence in Govandi, Mumbai, Wilson was picked from Munrika area in Delhi and Gadling from his residence in North Nagpur, police said.
According to the information given by the police, Rona Wilson is a native of Kerala but is currently based in Delhi and is the public relations secretary of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP). He has been active in campaigning against laws like UAPA and Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). He had been a close aide of convicted Delhi University professor G N Saibaba and has taken over his task of “co-ordination” between left wing extremist outfits in urban and jungle areas and the international network.
Sudhir Dhawale is known as a Dalit activist and editor of Marathi magazine ‘Vidrohi’. He was one of the organizers of Elgaar Parishad and had been previously arrested in January 2011 on charges of sedition for his alleged Maoist links.
Adv Surendra Gadling is general secretary of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers and generally known in Nagpur as Maoists’ lawyer for he he has been providing legal aid to those arrested for Maoist links, including activists of Kabir Kala Manch in Pune, Prof Saibaba and Dhawale. He is a tribal and Dalit rights activist.
Shoma Sena is a professor of English literature at Nagpur University and had been under the police scanner for alleged links with the left wing extremists.
Mahesh Raut, a former Prime Minister Rural Development (PMRD) Fellow, is alleged to be the link between jungle operatives and urban outfits of the Maoists. He has been active in the Maoist affected Gadchiroli district for last few years. In April 2014, when Raut was a PMRD fellow, he was detained by the Gadhchiroli police with his aide Harshali Potdar, after two arrested Maoists revealed that the duo was supposed to accompany them to meet senior Maoist leaders in jungles.
Potdar along with other Dalit activists staged protests at the Deonar Police station in Mumbai where Dhavle was brought after arrest. They demanded arrest of Sambhaji Bhide, of Shiv Pratishthan, Hindustan, a Sangli based Hindu organization for inciting riots at Bhima Koragaon.
PUCL Maharashtra convener Adv Mihir Desai condemned the arrests.
“These arrest amounts to blatant violation of citizen’s rights to freedom of expression and voicing dissent, and is clearly a move to target individuals working for rights of the marginalized sections of society, and to produce a chilling effect on voices of dissent,” Desai said in a statement released here. This appears to be a planned attack on people who have been protesting against injustice and atrocities perpetuated by various State and non-State Hindu right-wing groups, he added.