Skip to main content

A "fake" attempt: Why didn't Maharashtra police produce "incriminating" evidence in court, released it to media?

By Adv Masood Peshimam*
The liberal movement in any country, and more so India, has a positive side: It helps check ultra-conservatism, ultra-orthodoxy and ultra-nationalism. It is under the liberal spell that extremist mindsets, seeking to target vulnerable sections and stifle dissent, can be curbed to an extent.
One can express dissent on any issue. The Constitution gives the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, though subject to certain restrictions. However, the concept of reasonable restrictions is capable of widest interpretations, and hence there is a scope of its misuse.
In the prevailing political atmosphere in the country, attempt is being made not just to stifle dissent but sustain the campaign of violence against the weak and the feeble. The worst part of the scenario is that all the wrong things are done in the name of nationalism, and those opposing the establishment are retaliated with the stigma of being anti-national. Liberal voices are not only attempted to be curbed with heavy outpouring of criticism, even violence is perpetrated.
It is against this backdrop that the government of the day is refusing to discourage belligerence and bellicosity of communal forces, who perpetrate a high degree of tyranny and repression, curbing the freedom of intellectuals expressing their dissent.
Recently, the police swooped down on human right activists. The action was described as a follow up of a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, "unravelled" after the seizure of a letter from a Maoist sympathiser. Those arrested included lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj from Faridabad, civil rights activist Gautam Nanlakha from Delhi, activist Vernon Gonsalves and lawyer-activist Arun Ferreira from Mumbai, and 78-year-old Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao from Hyderabad.
The arrests, which took place alongside raids on several others' houses, police said, were based on names that emerged during the investigation of five other activists they had arrested in June in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
While the Pune Police termed raids and arrests a crackdown on “Urban Naxals”, who they claimed were responsible for the violence, many reacted with shock, describing the action as “absolutely chilling” and “virtual declaration of Emergency”, treating it as an assault on democracy. There are allegations of victimisation of the intellectuals.
Meantime, the Supreme Court expressed dismay over the manner in which the five activists were arrested in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence, observing that dissenting voices in a democracy should not be crushed. “Dissent is the safely valve of democracy, if dissent is not allowed then the pressure cooker may burst”, said Justice Y Chandrachud.
Subsequently, making out a case for the recent nationwide crackdown on activists by Pune Police, Maharashtra Additional Director General (Law & Order) Parambir Singh claimed that they have enough evidence to prove that the arrested activists Varavara Rao, Sudha Bhadwaj and Rona Wilson had links with outlawed Naxal groups.
At a media briefing, he said he had “email-letters” which purportedly spoke about arms procurement, muzzling of democracy and raising of funds, suggesting, they had solid Maoist links  The police also said that they have recovered “thousands of such letters” from the laptops seized from the accused.
But questioning the credibility of the letters, lawyer Susan Abraham, wife of Vernon Gonzales, one of the arrested activists, accused the police of not following the due process of law. 
“This is just to prejudice the minds of the public and divert the attention from the real issues like involvement of Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote [in Bhima-Koregaon violence] and Sanatan Sanstha’s involvement in the killing of rationalists. There is no credential value of the letters as none of these was authenticated in the Court, nor given to the defence lawyers”, Abraham said.
She asked why the police did not mention the “letters” in the Court if those were so important. “When the Pune Police filed a remand application in the District and Sessions Court on August 29 during the production of Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonzales and Arun Ferreira, they had stated 18 reasons. Not a single reason mentioned any letter or procurement of arms. I don’t understand why such kind of maligning of the accused is being done when the matter is already in the domain of the Court. This is illegal”.
“Any such document, if it is so sensitive, cannot be opened before the media before being examined by the Supreme Court. This is a actually part of the prosecution’s evidence”, a senior lawyer, practising at the Bombay High Court, Sanjay Kantawala, said. Senior lawyer Mihir Desai also said that the letters appeared to be suspicious.
Clearly, the possibility of someone faking the mail ID and "sending" incriminating documents cannot be ruled out. However, without verifying the accuracy of the documents the media briefing was uncalled for as the information fed at this stage tantamounted to influencing the public opinion. Advocate Abu Zaid Iraqi, prsacricing in Kalyan and Bombay sessions court, believes, “The Apex Court can take suo motu action against the prosecution for prematurely releasing the letters”. Another advocate Anand Khanderao feels that the arrest of these human rights activists is to divert the attention from some other sensitive issues.
Meanwhile, top writer-activist like Arundhati Roy, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and senior activist Aruna Roy have protested against the arrests. Roy said, “They should raid those who lynch and murder people in broad daylight. It tells very clearly where India is headed. Murderers will be honoured and celebrated. Anybody who speaks for justice or against Hindu majoritatianism is being made into criminal. What is happening is absolutely perilous”.
Justice Kolse Patil said that the Elgar Parishad had been suddenly linked to Bhima-Koregaon riots when an earlier report had said the riots were linked to incitement by Hindutva activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide. To Patil, the wrongful arrest of activists was an attempt by the state and the Central government to divert attention from the recent arrests of Sanatan Sanstha activists.
The outpouring of criticism against the arrest of activists born out of suspicion is based on the premise that there is an attempt to politically influence different components of the government, more so the law enforcing agencies. Political interference in police functioning is a matter of serious concern. 
 The prejudiced role of certain section of the police to prevent the repeated occurrence of mob lynching, absence of action against those indulging in inflammatory utterances against vulnerable sections and turning a blind eye over similar acts of commission and omission have put the credentials of the police at stake.
However, the entire police force cannot be tarred with the same brush. There are a lot of secular people in the police, who don’t want any section of society to be victimised on the basis of narrow considerations.
Series of gory events are leading to undeclared Emergency with heavy misuse of nationalism, which is much more dangerous than the declared Emergency of 1975-77. During the Emergency there was no attempt to provoke assault over any particular section of society, but currently intense hatred is being provoked against particular sections, sometimes in the name of religion, sometimes in the name of nationalism.
---
*Based in Kalyan, Maharashtra

Comments

TRENDING

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Is sacrilege charge against Punjab Dalits any different from Pak blasphemy cases?

Lakhbir Singh, his wife By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  There is no doubt that Sikhism actually was a revolt against the Brahmanical system and superstition. Guru Granth Saheb is perhaps the only Holy Book which contains matters from different religions as well as those of various Sufi saints, including Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid and others. The aim of Sikhism was to create an egalitarian society, and, definitely, Punjab that way is far better than many other States in India, where violence against Dalits is rampant.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Religious mobs replicate blasphemy laws, 'threatening' liberty in a free country

Nihangs, Lakhbir Singh By Ajit Singh*   A Dalit man, Lakhbir Singh, was mercilessly beaten up and lynched to death near farmers’ protest site in the State of Haryana allegedly by Nihang Sikhs. It was alleged that he committed blasphemy by desecrating the Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib.

Shabana Azmi joins Pak physicist Hoodbhoy to condemn B'desh anti-minority violence

By Our Representative  Several well-known South Asian activists and public figures of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives have expressed “deep distress” by the spate of violence and killings in Bangladesh on the occasion of Durga Puja and Vijayadashami. “Attacks on minorities are a sign of injustice and a matter of shame for any society and bring a bad name to the Government”, they said in a joint statement.

March opposes Sabarmati Ashram renovation: 'Mahatmaji had kept open for access to all'

Counterview Desk A Sevagram to Sabarmati march, which began on October 17 from Wardha (Maharashtra) and will end on October 24 in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), has demanded that the Sabarmati Ashram, the government should not impose "the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity" at the cost of Rs 1,200 crore, in the name of renovating the Ashram founded by Gandhiji.