NEW DELHI: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to vacate its order placing five activists under house arrest in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, saying there is cogent material to show they are all active members of the banned organisation, Communist Party of India (Maoist), preparing for large scale violence and an “armed rebellion.”
The State said placing poet Vara Vara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj and activists Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Gautam Navlakha under house arrest would only restrict them physically and they could use the time to destroy evidence and warn potential accused. The State wanted the court to make the five arrested on August 28 made available for custodial interrogation.
The State said the Supreme Court, as it had been made to believe, was not dealing with a case of free speech or freedom to dissent.
‘Dissent is welcome’
Speaking for itself, the Maharashtra government said it welcomed dissent and was committed to protection of fundamental rights of every citizen, even if he was a “vociferous critic” of the government’s policies.
Protecting the dissenters
It said the arrested activists were part of a conspiracy to create “large scale violence, destruction of property resulting into chaos in society as per the agenda prepared by the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which was banned as a terrorist organisation in 2009.”
The State said the public meeting under the banner of ‘’Elgaar Parishad’’ was planned and held on December 31 last in Bhima-Koregaon village through a “frontal organisation”called Kabir Kala Manch in order to “play with the sentiments of a particular community as emerged during the investigation conducted subsequently.”
It was deliberately held on the eve of Vijay Diwas, which was held peacefully every year and was restricted to paying homage to the valour of Mahar regiment which successfully participated in the war against Peshwas.
“It appears clearly that ‘Elgaar’ is a corrupted version of ‘Yalgaar’, which means ‘the attack,’” the Maharashtra government said.
Material evidence available, says State
The State government said it has material evidence in the nature of laptops, pen drives, etc., seized during raids since April and arrests in June. All the raids were videographed, keeping in mind the possibility that they would be later portrayed as police harassment. All this had been handed over to the forensic labs. The State said it was willing to produce all the evidence in the Supreme Court.
The material gathered, the State contended, “clearly show that they [accused] were involved in selecting and encouraging cadres to go underground in ‘struggle area,’ mobilising and distributing money, facilitating selection and purchase of arms, deciding the rates of such arms and suggesting the routes and ways of smuggling such arms into India for its onward distribution amongst the cadres. Some of them have suggested training and laying of booby traps and directional mines.”
They were “providing strategic inputs in furtherance of the objective of armed rebellion.”
Petition from five eminent persons
The State was responding to an Article 32 petition filed by five eminent persons, including historian Romila Thapar.
The State questioned how the petitioners, who were basically “strangers”, could move the highest constitutional court seeking bail for the accused during an ongoing investigation strictly in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure based on “requisite incriminating material” against the accused activists.
The State said the “sum and substance of the petition” was to the effect that the five persons arrested were persons of eminence who, according to the perception of the petitioners, “cannot commit any offence.”
Maharashtra also stated that the basic argument in the petition was that the Supreme Court should release the five activists merely because some “senior activists” and “intellectuals” have condemned their arrest.
“The entire petition is based upon the individual perception of the petitioners arrested persons are ‘all outstanding, well-known and well-respected human rights crusaders’ and, therefore, their arrest requires to be enquired into and they should be released on bail,” the State government countered.