The Pune Police’s spiel in court on the threats from ‘urban Maoism’ with regard to the Bhima Koregaon violence is only aimed at creating prejudice and stoking passions, alleged experts in criminal law.
They said the police’s startling claims and the rapidly shifting narrative — from inflammatory speeches at Elgaar Parishad in Pune the day before the violence, to a letter hinting at a plot to assassinate the PM, to a recruitment drive at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) under the garb of a lecture series — have no mention in either the FIR that set the case in motion or the two applications for remand of alleged top urban Maoist operatives Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut and Surendra Gadling, who were arrested in a multicity operation on June 6.
Mum on allegations
As per the FIR registered on January 8, members of cultural group Kabir Kala Manch — Sudhir Dhawale, Sagar Gorkhe, Jyoti Jagtap, Harshali Potdar, Ramesh Gaichor and at least six others —made speeches, sung songs, recited couplets and performed street plays at Elgaar Parishad that were divisive and inflammatory in nature, and which incited the violent clashes that broke out the next day.
By the time the police arrested Dhawale, Wilson, Gadling, Sen and Raut, the narrative had begun to shift. They alleged that these five had set up an “urban front” for the banned CPI (Maoist) and made attempts through it to engage in anti-national activities.
The following day, the plot took on more menacing tones. While seeking police custody of these five, district government pleader Ujjwala Pawar told a Pune court that an incriminating letter had been recovered from the electronic devices seized from the accused.
She read out parts of the letter and, without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spoke of “another Rajiv Gandhi-type incident”. The remand report was, however, silent on this claim.
On June 14, there was still no mention of the assassination plot when the police sought further custody of the accused. Instead, Pawar said the police had recovered new evidence from an forensic analysis of the electronic devices, which pointed to a CPI(Maoist) conspiracy to indoctrinate and recruit students during a lecture series planned in JNU in memory of Maoist leader Naveen Babu, who was killed in an encounter in 2000. Four letters were submitted for the court’s perusal.
Again, the remand report made no mention of this new revelation.
Yug Chaudhry, human rights and criminal lawyer, alleged that the police have no proof to back their startling allegations. “They are clutching at straws and are, therefore, making inflammatory statements in order to prejudice the judge and make this case look bigger than it is, so that bail is denied.
Their primary objective is to deny bail. When bail is denied, they have the accused in custody and they have the chance to fabricate evidence. This is the sole reason behind making such claims. Eventually, the case will collapse.
Look at how few convictions they have managed to obtain in other Maoist cases.”
Chaudhry argued that since the police have “nothing in hand”, neither the assassination plot nor the recruitment drive has found a place in the FIR or the remand application.
“That’s why you have these crazy statements being made across the bar which are utterly devoid of any substance and are meant only to serve the purpose of inflaming public sentiment and prejudicing both the media and the court. For them, this is a battle they are waging in the court of public opinion as well as the judicial court.”
Pawar had contended in court on June 14 that the “FIR is not an encyclopaedia. It is merely to set the process of criminal law in motion”. Defending the application of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against the five, which were not invoked in the FIR, she argued that attempted murder charges are often changed to a murder charge if a victim dies.
Chaudhry, however, said that since the statements were made during a remand hearing, it indicates that they’re the linchpin of the case. “How are they not in the FIR? It is understandable if minor details are missing, but the very heart of your case has to be there.”
Dubbing the allegations “mischievous endeavours”, senior criminal lawyer Vijay Pradhan said, “How trivial and mischievous all this is can come on record during the trial. It is absolutely trifling. Outside the bounds of a legal query, there are other considerations that lead to such mischievous endeavours.”
Commenting on the grounds of confidentiality cited by the police while submitting the retrieved letters for the court’s perusal, senior lawyer Yusuf Muchhala said, “They can claim confidence only if the document is not in the public domain. Where is the question of confidence now? Confidentiality is gone. The letter should have been cited in the remand application.”