The letter also mentions a phone number, which allegedly belongs to a senior Congress leader who is referred to as a ‘friend’.
Mumbai: One of the letters allegedly seized from the 10 arrested activists in connection with the Elgaar Parishad violence cites the willingness of Congress leaders to assist them in organising protests.
It also quotes a contact number that is listed as senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh’s on the party website.
But the Pune Police, which made the arrests, has told ThePrint that Singh’s name has not come up in its investigation so far.
Also read: Letters show ‘links between activists and Maoists’, say Maharashtra Police
“There are thousands of such documents. I will have to go back to this particular letter. But so far, this has not come up in the process of our investigation,” said a senior official of the investigating team.
A senior Pune police officer told ThePrint, “Whatever that letter says about the support of leaders from a particular party and instructions to contact their ‘friend’, all that is not part of the scope of our investigation.”
“The scope of our investigation is only limited to the conspiracy to work against our security forces in Naxal areas and aid violence by procuring arms and ammunition, raising and providing funds, recruiting and training personnel for it, and creating disharmony between different communities of the society,” the officer added.
The letter is supposed to have been written by ‘Comrade Prakash’ to ‘Comrade Surendra’ and is dated 25 September, 2017.
“We must intensify nationwide protests using students, state forces will be soft against students which will gradually put the state at a disadvantage while acting against us,” ‘Comrade Prakash’ has written in the purported letter.
“Congress leaders are very much willing to assist in this process and have also agreed fund further agitations whenever such opportunities arrive. In this regard you can contact our friend at 9910230011.”
The official Congress website, inc.in, lists the number as that of Singh, who is a Rajya Sabha member. A call to the number says it is “not valid”.
Reached for comment, Digvijaya Singh told ThePrint he had “no knowledge of any such thing”.
“As a public figure so many people have my number. I don’t know how and when they are using it for what,” Singh said.
The letter was allegedly recovered as part of several documents seized from 10 activists that the Pune Police has arrested since June in connection with the Elgaar Parishad held on December 31, 2017, at Pune’s Shaniwar Wada, which allegedly led to the January 1 Bhima-Koregaon violence.
Violence & the arrests
Stones were pelted and vehicles set ablaze on January 1, killing one person and injuring several others, when Dalits were making their way to the Bhima-Koregaon memorial to mark the 200th year of the 1818 Bhima-Koregaon battle in which a British army, comprising Dalits, defeated Maharashtra’s Peshwas.
Pune resident Tushar Damgude filed an FIR on January 8, saying he attended the Elgaar Parishad in which there were statements, slogans and songs with the potential to cause social divisions and unrest. Damgude held the event responsible for the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
Based on the FIR, the Pune Police in June arrested Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen and Rona Wilson after raids at their houses in April.
Last week, the police also raided houses and arrested Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navalakha and Sudha Bhardwaj. The police said that the activists are members of and actively work for the banned Communist Party of India (Maoists) and are instrumental in procuring arms, directing funds, recruiting new members for Naxal training and fuelling protests on the ground to create an anti-fascist front and overthrow the government.
Also read: Bhima-Koregaon arrests – ‘Activists pushed Maoism, sought arms, waged war against state’
The letter was mentioned by public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar in a lower court in Pune on August 29 while arguing for the custody of Rao, Ferreira and Gonsalves. She, however, highlighted a different portion of the letter that allegedly involved Ferreira, though it does not state his full name.
The part of the letter that Pawar highlighted and read out while arguing for custody says, “Com. M has expressed satisfaction with regards to Arun’s efforts to motivate research scholars and get them involved in the revolutionary movement. He has been asked to continue the work across Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and Konkan region too. Senior CC leaders have also appreciated his selfless contribution in strengthening the party across the Western zone.”
The Congress’ name also comes up in another letter dated 2 January, 2018, written by a ‘Comrade M’ to ‘Comrade Rona’. It says: “Congress friends have assured assistance for the release of senior political prisoners including Com. Kobad and Com. Sai.”
Com. Kobad and Com. Sai are, perhaps, references to Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy and former Delhi University academician G.N. Saibaba both of whom are in prison.
Saibaba was convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — meant to punish terrorism and acts detrimental to India’s sovereignty — by a lower court in Gadchiroli in 2017. Ghandy was arrested for allegedly being a member of the banned CPI (Maoists) and conducting a recce of targets under different aliases.
In 2016, he was acquitted under UAPA but convicted for cheating and forgery. With there being a number of other cases against him, Ghandy is still in prison. Both Saibaba and Ghandy were arrested under the Congress-led UPA government.
The public prosecutor also mentioned this letter in court, but read out a different portion that speaks about how the unfortunate death of a youth during the Bhima-Koregaon violence must be exploited to prepare future agitations and propaganda material.