Police detain activists during a protest against the arrest of revolutionary writer Varavara Rao and other activists in connection with Bhima-Koregaon violence, in Hyderabad on Wednesday. (Source: PTI)

Activists’ Arrests: Plan Was To Target ‘Higher Political Functionaries’, Says Pune Police

A day after arresting five human rights activists for their alleged Maoist links, the Pune Police said today it had "evidence" which suggested that there was a plan to target "higher political functionaries".

The police also claimed to have evidence to suggest that the arrested people had links with Kashmiri separatists.

Pune Police yesterday raided the homes of prominent Left-wing activists in several states and arrested five of them—poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Faridabad and Chhattisgarh and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.

The raids were carried out as part of a probe into a conclave—Elgar Parishad—held in Koregaon-Bhima near Pune on December 31 last year, which had allegedly triggered violence the next day.

"The arrested activists were part of a conspiracy to target higher political functionaries," Joint Commissioner of Pune Police Shivajirao Bodkhe said without elaborating. “The arrested accused had communicated about the plan within themselves.”

Some of the evidence collected suggests that they had planned to target "higher political functionaries", Deputy Commissioner of Police Shirish Sardeshpande said.

The police officials, while addressing a press conference in Pune today, said the Elgar Parishad had been funded by Maoists.

"They also have a strong intolerance to the present political system and decided to target organisations, functionaries and they even were thinking of targeting highest political functionaries,” Sardeshpande said.

Police have retrieved communication and strong evidence that the arrested persons were planners and abettors, he said. “Some evidence suggests that they (those arrested) appear to be mixed up with other unlawful organisations.”

“The evidence conclusively points to the deliberate involvement and major role played by Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bhardwaj and Gautam Navlakha in the larger conspiracy hatched by the banned organisation CPI (Maoist)," Sardeshpande said.

The "evidence" also involves details like provision of funds, responsibilities given to these “urban naxals” in radicalising the youth and students, provision of arms and other details, and training from senior comrades of Central Committee of CPI Maoist, he added.

"Also, they were actively and deliberately involved in unlawful activities, which led to the violence and killings of a large number of security personnel and even some civilians," he said.

‘Incriminating Documents Recovered’

Altogether, nine places were searched yesterday, he said. “Hard disks, laptops, memory cards, mobile phones and other "incriminating" documents were recovered from these places.”

Some prominent people today approached the Supreme Court, challenging the arrests.

The Supreme Court ordered that all the five people would have to be kept under house arrest till Sept. 6. The Pune police had brought Rao, Gonsalves and Ferreira here last night and produced them in a court in Pune today.

Also read: Climate of ‘Fear’ Among Rights Groups as India Arrests Activists