New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Monday arrested three members of the Kabir Kala Manch in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case.
Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and his wife Jyoti Jagtap were arrested from Mumbai in a case, which was initially filed by the Pune Police on the complaint of one Tushar Damgude in January 2018.
The complainant had named six accused— poet Sudhir Dhawale; Harshali Potdar, both members of Republican Panthers (RP) party; Sagar Gorkhe, Deepak Dhengle, Ramesh Gaichor and his wife Jyoti Jagtap, all artists of Kabir Kala Manch in Pune, a predominantly Dalit and working-class troupe performing protest music.
They were accused of “making provocative speeches at the Elgaar Parishad held in Pune on December 31 (2017) to commemorate the Bhima-Koregaon battle” and were booked under Sections 153 (a) ( Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race), 505 1 (b) (causing fear or alarm to public), 117 (abetting commission of offence) and 34 (acts of common intention) of the IPC.
Sources in the NIA confirmed the arrest and alleged that the members were in touch with Naxals and that they have sufficient evidence to prove their involvement in inciting the violence.
The NIA took over the Bhima Koregaon case in January this year in which several activists were booked for making provocative speeches at the Elgaar Parishad event organised at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on 31 December 2017, which then allegedly escalated tensions leading to riots in Pune and Mumbai.
‘Were forced to become witness or face arrest’
Soon after the arrests, the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerana Abhiyan released a statement condemning the arrests of the activists and alleging that the NIA had been forcing the trio to become “witnesses” in the case before arresting them when they refused to come on board.
It also put out a video by Gorkhe and Gaichor, who are members of the Abhiyan, in which the two men are accusing the NIA of allegedly forcing them to be witnesses in the case.
The NIA did not comment on the statement but sources in the agency confirmed the arrest.
The statement said that NIA had summoned both Gorkhe and Gaichor on multiple occasions for questioning and that they had joined the investigation.
The statement said neither the Pune police nor the NIA had found anything against them. “Under the guise of questioning, they were repeatedly threatened with arrest unless they turned witness to the state,” the statement said.
“They were threatened and told that they have to become a witness under section 164 CrPC and admit (falsely) that they went to the jungle in Gadchiroli and met Naxals there and that they had connections with Naxalites,” the statement said.
“They were told ‘unless you agree with it, we will arrest you’,” the statement added. It further said that the trio was arrested as they did not bend to the pressure imposed by NIA.
“At this point, various human right activists, professors, lawyers and authors have been arrested in connection with the case and this conniving state is now targeting Ambedkarite activists who have fought against the Brahmanical regime through constitutional means,” the statement said.
In the complaint filed by Tushar Damgude in January 2018 in Pune, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, Jyoti Jagtap and Deepak Dhengle of the Kabir Kala Manch, and Harshali Potdar and Dhawale of Republican Panthers were named for allegedly creating communal tension by delivering provocative speeches at the Elgaar Parishad organised on 31 December, 2017.
An FIR was then filed against these activists for allegedly making inflammatory speeches. In April 2018, raids were conducted at the residences of several activists in Delhi, Nagpur and Mumbai.
In June 2018, an FIR was registered against the activists and after investigation, five activists — Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Rona Wilson — were arrested by Pune Police and charged under the UAPA.
Subsequently, four more activists were arrested.
In November the same year, these nine activists and 10 others, who are allegedly operatives of the banned outfit CPI(Maoist) and also accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, were charged with a conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and waging war against the nation and state of Maharashtra and acts of terrorism.
Draft charges were submitted by Pune Police against the 19 accused in the case at a special UAPA court in Pune.