CPI-Maoist recruitment, fundraising: The web of charges against Bharadwaj


Lawyer and activist Sudha Bharadwaj was released from Byculla Women’s Prison in Mumbai on Thursday after getting a default deposit last week. She spent three years in prison for her alleged links to the banned CPI-Maoist. She was arrested on August 28, 2018, along with four other people in the Elgaar Parishad case.

The police had accused her of recruiting for the CPI-Maoist, of raising funds for the outfit and of meeting “undercover” agents. The allegations are mainly based on documents allegedly recovered from electronic devices seized in the case.

Elgaar Parishad FIR

Elgaar Parishad was a conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, ahead of the 200th commemoration of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima. The following day, widespread violence was reported in the Koregaon Bhima area of ​​Pune. One person died and several others were injured in the violence.

On January 8, Pune-based Tushar Damgude lodged a complaint at Vishrambag police station against six activists, including organizers of Elgaar Parishad Harshali Potdar, Sudhir Dhawale of the Republican Panthers (RP) and four activists from the Kabir cultural group. Kala Manch (KKM) based in Pune. All six were reserved under Articles 153A of the Indian Penal Code (Promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and committing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony) and Articles 505 of the IPC (Statements inciting public harm) and 117 (incitement to commit an offense by the public).

Bharadwaj’s arrest “part of larger investigation”

On April 17, 2018, Pune City Police searched the homes of six FIR-named suspects as well as the homes of Delhi-based researcher Rona Wilson and lawyer Surendra Gadling in Nagpur. Police said they seized several electronic devices during the searches and recovered a significant amount of data.

Based on the “evidence” obtained from the devices, Pune City Police then arrested Wilson, Dhawale and Gadling, as well as Shoma Sen, a professor at Nagpur University and Mahesh Raut, a former member of the Prime Minister. Rural Development Committee (PMRD), June 6, 2018. In addition to the IPC sections, the police invoked the strict Prevention of Illegal Activities Act (UAPA) against the five defendants, calling them active members of the CPI-Maoist forbidden. Police further claimed that the investigation into the Elgar Parishad extended beyond the conclave and revealed information about a wide range of CPI-Maoist activities.

Then, on August 28, 2018, police arrested five other people, including Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad, P Varavara Rao from Telangana, lawyer Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves from Mumbai in connection with the case. Pune police have reserved a total of 23 people in the case, including fugitive Maoist leader Mupalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy, Milind Teltumbde (who recently died during a meeting with Maharashtra police in Gadchiroli), Prakash alias Ritupam Goswami , Manglu, Deepu, senior Maoist leader Kishan alias Prashanti Bose (recently arrested by Jharkhand police).

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) resumed the investigation into the case in February 2020 and arrested seven other activists, including Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde from Goa and Stan Swamy from Jharkhand. Swamy died of illness in custody on July 5.

“Digital trail” which led to accusations

Although Bharadwaj was not present at the Elgar Parishad event, police claimed that she and other defendants were part of a banned CPI-Maoist “wider plan” to form a front called ” Antifascist Front ”to overthrow the government. Police also alleged that they were involved in recruiting for the CPI-Maoist, encouraging recruits to go underground “into the areas of struggle,” raising and distributing funds for the banned group and providing strategic contributions.

Police further stated that Bharadwaj was a member of the board of the Indian Association of People’s Advocates (IAPL), which is a “banned CPI-Maoist front-line organization”. According to the police, Bharadwaj met underground CPI-Maoist workers through this organization.

Police cited data seized from electronic devices as the basis for the allegations.

They submitted to various courts a letter allegedly written by Bharadwaj to a “comrade Prakash”, which they claim to have recovered in an electronic device seized from Gadling. Based on the contents of this letter, the police alleged Bharadwaj’s role in sending students from reputable institutions to the interior of the country in accordance with CPI-Maoist guidelines and in raising funds for the work. party.

Police also alleged that a letter retrieved from Rona Wilson regarding the minutes of the “special women’s meeting held on January 2, 2018,” mentioned Bharadwaj as one of those present at the meeting. According to police, the document begins with the line “For PM and SC only” and states that “PM” means “party members” and “SC” means “members of the state committee”. There is also a line in the document – “Intensify tactical training for female PLGA members, including directional traps / mines”.

Police say PLGA stands for CPI-Maoist “People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army”.

Police also cite a letter written by “Comrade Prakash to Comrade Rona” and alleged that a senior Party leader sent instructions via Bharadwaj and Gadling to various IAPL members in several states. The letter allegedly mentions that Rs 5 Lakh was given to “Comrade Sudhir and Comrade Surendra” and they were told that since the Bhima-Koregaon unrest was losing its fire, other members active in different states should escalate the agitation. The letter also reportedly mentioned that “two members of the TISS Institute had reached Guerrilla Hills safely.” The police therefore alleged Bharadwaj’s involvement in recruiting the Maoist CPI.

Police also claimed to have obtained evidence against Sudha from another letter written by “Comrade Prakash” to “Comrade Surendra”, a letter from an “S / S” to “Comrade R”, a separate letter written by Prakash. The police cited various meetings and activities mentioned in these documents and alleged Bharadwaj’s active role in them.

Bharadwaj’s lawyer, however, called these documents unreliable evidence because none of them are handwritten and none bear the signature of Bharadwaj or any other person.

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