Elgar Parishad: Former Justice condemns arrests; rejects allegations

Retired Justice BG Kolse-Patil with others condemned the attacks on people’s struggle and the arrests of five activists for alleged Maoist links

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On June 6, the Pune police conducted multiple arrests from Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence. The police arrested the leading organiser of the Elgar Parishad, Sudhir Dhawale from his residence in Mumbai’s Govandi followed by the arrests of Advocate Surendra Gadling from his residence in Nagpur, Nagpur University Professor Dr Shoma Sen and Activist Mahesh Raut from their houses in Nagpur. At the same time, a team from Pune arrested Rona Wilson her residence in Delhi. All five were produced before the Pune Additional Sessions Judge, Special Court, Shri Baisare on 7th June and were remanded to police custody till Thursday 14th June.

Adv. Surendra Gadling was produced at 5 a.m. before the same Court, thus ensuring that there would be no lawyers to represent him. The police, however, called one of their own lawyers to ‘represent’ him as a ‘legal aid’ lawyer. It is shocking that once again he was not allowed a lawyer of his choice when there are dozens of lawyers from Nagpur and Pune who wish to represent him. Gadling’s health required him to be admitted to Pune’s Sassoon Hospital on June 7 and when his health deteriorated he was moved to the ICU.

While in ICU, Adv Gadling was kept handcuffed to the bed in gross violation of Supreme Court directions in this regard. Meanwhile, Adv Gadling has been moved from Sassoon Hospital to Pune’s Yerawada Prison at 3-00 pm on June 11, despite his wife’s requests to wait for his reports before transfer. She fears a major health problem as the reports which came later indicate a need for diabetes treatment that has not been prescribed.

There are many shocking aspects to these arrests. First of all, the arrests have been carried out in Crime No. 4 of 2018. This crime was registered by Vishrambaug police station Pune under sections 153-A, 505 (1)(b), 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The offence was registered on January 8, eight days after the Elgar Parishad on 31st December, blaming the Parishad organizers for the violence committed the next day against the predominantly Dalit congregation at Bhima Koregaon, over 40 km from the Elgar Parishad programme site. The arrests were carried out six months later.

Secondly, the police have expanded the charge by saying that not only was Elgar Parishad responsible for the violence but that those behind the Parishad were Maoists and the arrests of these five persons are to show their alleged association with Maoists. A closer scrutiny of the allegations reveals a larger attempt by Centre and State Governments through the Pune police to attack people’s struggles that are criticising or challenging the present regime. By doing so, the attempt is clearly to shield those responsible for the attack on Dalits on January 1, led by Manohar Bhide and Milind Ekbote. This has been the consistent demand of the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan spokespersons, including its Convenor, Justice (Retd.) P.B. Sawant (Supreme Court) and Justice (Retd.) BG Kolse-Patil, the umbrella organization of 260 organisations which held the Elgar Parishad on December 31. Sudhir Dhawle, a leading member of the Abhiyaan has been arrested while Ekbote and Bhide are roaming free.

Thirdly, from June 7 onwards, the Pune police have been systematically leaking fabricated letters alleged to have been seized from the accused which is in violation of the orders of the Bombay High Court. The Pune police are also attempting to target Opposition parties such as the Congress and the Prakash Ambedkar-led Bharip. Even vocal critics of the Government such as Jignesh Mewani, Umar Khalid and Varavara Rao have been targeted and are now receiving death threats. In fact, these fabricated letters mention every possible opposition leader from all over the country and also makes a sensational claim about a “Rajiv Gandhi-like incident” (with obvious reference to PM Modi) so as to create a frenzy of pseudo-nationalism keeping in mind the 2019 elections. This despite directions of the Bombay High Court in a 2014 judgement and a subsequent circular issued by the Maharashtra government disallowing police personnel and public prosecutors from such disclosures till filing of the chargesheet. Such leaks have the effect of denying a fair trial to the persons falsely implicated in serious offences.

The undersigned, therefore, condemn these arrests and defamatory and illegal leaks to the Press by the Pune police and demand the unconditional release of Adv Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson & Mahesh Raut.

This press release was issued by Justice (Retd.) B G Kolse-Patil (Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Diwas Prerna Abhiyan), Indira Jaising, former Addl. Solicitor General, Supreme Court of India, Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate, (PUCL, Maharashtra), Adv. Maharukh Adenwalla (CPDR), Bilal Khan (NAPM), Abhirr Palat (Amnesty India), Feroze Mithiborwala (Bharat Bachao Andolan), Sadiq Qureshi (B K S D Prerna Abhiyan).

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