Mumbai: Pune police have arrested five left-wing activists, including two activists from Mumbai and Thane, who are suspected to have Maoist links in the Bhima-Koregaon violence on Tuesday. In a series of raids conducted in several states, the police claimed to have found incriminating documents in the house of the arrested accused.
A police team comprising three officials and along with a cyber expert and a videographer raided the residences of the arrested accused. After hours of searches, the police arrested activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira from Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bhardwaj from Faridabad, activist-poet Varavara Rao from Hyderabad, and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha from Delhi.
A police team from Pune began conducting raids at Ferreira’s residence in Thane at 6 am, which ended nine hours later. The Pune police had sought support from the local Thane police, who were guarding his residence as hundreds thronged outside. Nine hours after the searches, Ferreira was arrested from his house around 3:15 pm. During the raids, the police seized Ferreira and his wife’s laptop and three pen drives. The police also sought bank details of Ferreira’s family to ascertain if the family’s bank accounts were used to transfer money to fund the Naxal activities, said police.
Activist Vernon Gonsalves’ Andheri home was raided by the police in the same manner as Ferreira. Gonsalves, who was previously accused of having links to banned Naxalite outfits, was also labeled as an ex-central committee member and former secretary of Maharashtra State Rajya Committee of the Naxalites. The police also seized literature and laptop belonging to Gonsalves, following which he was arrested by the police shortly after Tuesday noon.
The police have found incriminating evidence in the residences of the accused in the likes of documents and technical evidence found on their personal computers. Shivaji Bodakhe, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) said, “We have seized the computers, laptops and other documents from the homes of those arrested. The teams of Pune police also found strong incriminating evidence against the accused persons in the raids conducted on their residences, on the basis of which arrests were made.”
Bodakhe added, “The accused persons have been arrested under the relevant sections of Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their alleged Naxal activities. More details on these arrests will be revealed after interrogation of the case.” Police claim the speeches made at the conclave on December 31, a day before the 200th anniversary of a major battle in which the Peshwa rulers were defeated on January 1, 1818, by the British army, comprising a large number of Dalit soldiers, were one of the triggers for the violence.