Elgaar Parishad event: Raids at homes of activists with ‘Maoists links’ across India

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Pune police is carrying out searches on the residences of prominent activists and lawyers at multiple locations since early morning on Tuesday in connection with its investigations into the alleged Maoist involvement in the organisation of Elgaar Parishad, an evening event in Pune on December 31, 2017. Several activists have been detained.

Police claim the speeches made at the Elgaar Parishad, a day ahead of the bicentennial celebration of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, were one of the triggers to the violence that was witnessed in and around Pune the next day.

Officials said Pune police had been conducting simultaneous searches in Delhi, Hyderabad, Ranchi, Goa and Mumbai. “The action is likely to continue throughout the day,” a senior police official in Pune said.

Pune police said the searches were being conducted at the residential premises of human rights activist and journalist Gautam Navlakha in Delhi, writer and activist P Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, civil rights lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Delhi, and activist Stan Swamy in Ranchi. The residence of write and civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde in Goa was also being searched. Teltumbde was not in Goa when the Pune police team arrived at his residence early in the morning.

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The police claimed that the names of these people had emerged in the interrogations of five activists and lawyers it had arrested in June in the same case. On June 6, it had arrested Sudhir Dhawale, leader of Mumbai-based Republican Panthers Jati Antachi Chalwal, Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson of Committee of Release of Political Prisoners, Nagpur lawyer Surendra Gadling of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, and Mahesh Raut who had in the past been Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow.

While producing them in court the next day, Pune police had claimed that documents and information recovered from some of these alleged “top urban Maoist operatives” revealed plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a “Rajiv Gandhi like manner” last year. All the five, charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, are currently in being held in magisterial custody, and lodged in Yervada central prison in Pune.

The Elgaar Parishad was organised to commemorate the 200thanniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon which happened on January 1 in 1818, in which a British army comprising of a large number of Dalit soldiers is said to have defeated the Peshwas. Every year on January 1, thousands of Dalits assemble in Pune and march to the village of Koregaon Bhima which has a war memorial (Jaystambh) in memory of those who died in that battle.

Police claim investigations had shown that banned Maoist groups were involved in financing and organising the Elgaar Parishad event.