Pune: A letter, which the Maharashtra police claim to have recovered during its multi-city raids two days back, alleges that one of the five arrested activists Gautam Navlakha was in contact with Kashmiri separatists. The undated letter in Hindi, written by some ‘Comrade Sudha’ to some ‘Comrade Prakash, also talks about giving financial help to the “comrades” working in the “interiors”, as is supposedly done by backers of militants and stone pelters in Kashmir.
Navlakha was one of the five Left-wing activists arrested for alleged Maoist links during raids by the Pune police at nine places across various states on Tuesday. Others arrested were Left-leaning poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai and trade unionist and lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj in Haryana’s Faridabad.
The raids were carried out as part of a probe into a conclave — Elgar Parishad — held in Pune on December 31 last year, which had allegedly triggered violence at Bhima Koregaon in the district the next day. A letter, a copy of which is in PTI’s possession, reads: “Comrade Ankit and Comrade Gautam Navlakha are in contact with Kashmiri separatists.”
It was not clear from the letter as to who “Sudha”, “Prakash” or “Ankit” are. It goes on to say: “After Saibaba’s imprisonment, there is an atmosphere of fear among urban cadres. To minimise that fear, there is a need to provide monetary package to the comrades working in interiors on the line of financial aid provided by Kashmiri separatists to the stone pelters, militant organisations and their families.” Such aid, the letter states, will make the “comrades” mentally stronger to face any situation.
Raids are quite shocking: CHRI
Calling the raids on Left-wing activists by police “disturbing”, NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative on Thursday said the incident highlights a lack of accountability in the police force.
The Maharashtra police arrested Left-wing activists Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, and raided the homes of several others as part of their probe into the ‘Elgar Parishad’ conclave in Koregaon-Bhima village near Pune on December 31 last year. The conclave had triggered violence between Dalits and upper caste Peshwas. Others whose premises were reportedly searched this week were Father Stan Swamy, Susan Abraham, Kranthi Tekula and Anand Teltumbde.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has issued a statement, calling the raids “disturbing”. The statement has been signed by CHRI members and former Chief Information Commissioner of India Wajahat Habibullah, former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah and former Secretary Vineeta Rai among others.
“This is particularly disturbing, given allegations of procedural lapses by the police in the conduct of the raids and arrests. That this comes barely a month before Police Reforms Day shows how extensive gaps still remain with regard to police accountability and upholding the law, not just enforcing it,” according to the statement.
“We are concerned about the use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and sedition laws, despite courts at the highest level repeatedly pointing out their widespread abuse. This is particularly disturbing, given allegations of procedural lapses by the police in the conduct of the raids and arrests,” it said.