'Arrested Activists Have Strong Intolerance for Present Political System': Pune Cops Justify Action
Joint Commissioner of Pune Police Shivajirao Bodkhe also claimed to have evidence to suggest that the arrested people had links with Kashmiri separatists.
Police detain a protestor demonstrating against the arrest of revolutionary writer Varavara Rao and other activists, in Hyderabad. (Image: AP)
Pune: Even as the Supreme Court ordered that the five arrested left-wing activists will be kept on house arrest, Pune police justified its action in a press briefing soon after, claiming that the accused had a strong “intolerance of the present political system”.
Joint Commissioner of Pune Police Shivajirao Bodkhe claimed that they had evidence to suggest that the activists had planned to target "higher political functionaries", but did not elaborate. The arrested accused had communicated about the plan within themselves, he added.
Officials of Pune police had reached the houses of activists, writers, lawyers and journalists across multiple cities on Tuesday morning and conducted almost simultaneous raids on these activists, as part of its probe into the Bhima Koregaon violence in January.
They said that they had made the arrest after assessing all the ‘evidence’ that allegedly pointed to activists' Maoist connections, which police said they confirmed by surveilling the activists for almost a week before the raids.
Bodkhe also claimed to have evidence to suggest that the arrested people had links with Kashmiri separatists.
Following the raids on nine activists, five of them — Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavar Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves — were arrested by Pune police on Tuesday. After a petition by a lawyers’ collective, the Supreme Court granted interim relief to all five activists and ordered them to be kept under house arrest till September 6.
Pune police claim the ‘evidence’ was collected after the arrests of five other activists in June in the Bhima Koregoan probe. According to sources, the ‘evidence’ includes 25 to 30 terabytes of data, all of which was examined in the presence of the legal and IT cell of Pune police. The officials have claimed that these arrested activists were planning a “big conspiracy” to target the "highest political functionaries".
Sources have said, Pune police monitored the movements of the arrested activists before carrying out the raids in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Ranchi and Hyderabad on Tuesday. During the search operations, the police confiscated multiple laptops, mobile phones, SIM cards, cameras and other writings and documents.
The arrests of Bharadwaj, Rao, Navlakha, Ferreira and Gonsalves have triggered outrage among human rights defenders, activists, lawyers and other civil society members, who have all termed the arrests as an assault on free speech and dissent. All five arrested activists have now been put under house arrest till September 6 following the Supreme Court’s order on Wednesday.
The activists were charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The police have maintained that these activists were connected to the violence that erupted in Bhima Koregaon near Pune in January following the Elgaar Parishad conclave on December 31. The activists and their lawyers have maintained that the charges are false and fabricated and are an attempt to suppress dissent.
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