Photo by BL SONI
Photo by BL SONI

Mumbai: The arrest of alleged Maoist sympathisers and prominent activists on Tuesday was roundly criticised by various organisations, which said the arrests are nothing but an attempt by the government to strike terror among those who are fighting for justice for the marginalised. Prominent activists across the nation, while condemning the arrest, have stated it is an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to invent a false enemy and engage in scaremongering in order to polarise the 2019 elections in its favour.

Left ideologists claim it is a systematic ploy to divert the attention of the people from the recent arrest of activists of the Hindu outfit Sanatan Sanstha. In the second major crackdown against alleged Maoist sympathisers, Pune Police on Tuesday arrested advocates Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira from Mumbai and Thane respectively after raiding their homes. Police also searched the residence of Prof Anand Teltumbde at Sanquelim in Goa on Tuesday. This action was taken as part of the probe into the January 2018 Bhima-Koregaon riots allegedly triggered by the Elgar Parishad, organized in Pune on December 31, 2017.

Prakash Ambedkar, president of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) and brother-in-law of Anand Teltumbde, condemned the arrest, saying there have been no further developments in the case of the five arrests made in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon riots.  As part of the crackdown on what they termed as urban Naxalism, the Pune police had, in the month of June, arrested five Maoist activists from Delhi, Mumbai and Nagpur, including Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson and Shoma Sen.

Pune Police had arrested them for making “provocative” speeches at the Elgar Parishad and had produced letters allegedly recovered from them as evidence in the court — one of the letters spoke of a plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Tuesday’s arrests are expected to shed more light on the case, police said. Prakash alias Balasaheb, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, architect of the Indian Constitution, is a hardcore supporter of Naxalism, who went on to dilute his pro-Naxal stand after the arrest of Gadling and Dhawale in connection with the Elgar Parishad.

On Tuesday, Ambedkar alleged the arrests of more people in connection with the Elgar Parishad “are a whitewash. I had predicted the arrests would be made following the raids on and arrest of Sanatan members,” Ambedkar added. “Police have not been able to prove anything or produce any documentary evidence in the five arrests made in the month of June. However, as a balancing act after the arrests of Hindu hardliners, the government has arrested Dalit and Humanist activists. This will boomerang on the government,” Ambedkar said.

A joint statement issued by various organisations condemning arrest of activists and public intellectuals says, “Terms like ‘urban naxals’ are invented in order to stifle any criticism of the government. The so-called raids carried out on the houses of these activists are aimed at creating a spectacle, as the writings and views of these intellectuals are already publicly known and are well-documented.

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