Mumbai, (The Hindu): Susan Abraham, the wife of activist Vernon Gonsalves, said Tuesday’s arrests are nothing more than a ploy by the police to gain more time. Mr. Gonsalves, along with Arun Ferreira, Varvara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Gautam Navlakha, were arrested by the Pune police, allegedly for their involvement in Maoist activities.
Mr. Gonsalves was picked up at his Andheri residence while Ms. Abraham and their son Sagar were in the house. “Under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the police need to file a charge sheet within 90 days of the arrest, failing which the accused have the right to apply for bail. The deadline for filing a charge sheet against the five activists arrested earlier expires on September 6. With Tuesday’s arrests, the police can seek an extension claiming new facts have come to light which need to be probed,” Ms. Abraham said.
On June 7, the police had arrested Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Soma Sen, and Sudhir Dhawale, and charged them under the Indian Penal Code and the UAPA. They were accused of organising the Elgar Parishad in Pune, during which provocative speeches were allegedly made, which contributed to the Bhima Koregaon violence on January 1.
Reacting to Ms. Abraham’s statement, Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Shivaji Bodkhe, Pune police, said, “It is their prerogative to make such statements. We have certain evidence and are acting based on it.”
Ms. Abraham said the arrests are also a diversionary tactic in light of the recent arrests of the six people by the Anti Terrorism Squad for allegedly planing disruptive activities. “Here are people who are involved in the murder of a noted activist and have clear links to the right wing, which supports the current government and the State. Instead of focusing on them, the police have arrested individuals who have had no involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence,” she said.
The police conducted searches at the residences of Mr. Gonsalves in Andheri and Mr. Ferreira in Thane. When The Hindu visited the Gonsalves residence on Tuesday morning, six officers were going through their belongings in the bedroom, while two female constables in plain clothes were in the living room. Constables were also posted at the building gate to stop anyone from entering.
Mr. Gonsalves was taken to MIDC police station around 1.45 p.m., and later to the Andheri court, where his transit remand was obtained. His computer hard disk, laptop, and cell phone, along with old cell phones and books were seized.
“I have been falsely implicated by the police,” Mr. Gonsalves told reporters on his way out.
A similar scene played out at Mr. Ferreira’s residence in Thane, with the police arriving around 6 a.m. and leaving with him by 4 p.m.
On his way out, Mr. Ferreira, answering a question on whether he thought there was a plot against him, said, “This is a plot against human rights activists across the country.”
He said his books and journals had been seized, after which he was bundled into a car and taken to the Thane court, where the Pune police got his transit custody. Mr. Ferreira’s family refused to speak to the press.
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