Bhima-Koregaon FIR Didn’t Mention UAPA, Do Cops Have Evidence Now?

Does the Pune Police have enough evidence to invoke UAPA Act against the five activists, or are they being framed?

Updated
India
4 min read
Bhima Koregaon incident
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The Bhima-Koregaon FIR filed on 8 January 2018 did not contain the names of the five activists arrested on 28 August 2018, nor did it contain sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.

The pan-India crackdown on Left-wing activists and advocates led to the arrests of five prominent people on 28 August – advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, lawyer and author Arun Ferreira, revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, and activists Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves. The police allege that they were involved in instigating the mob in the violence that broke out during the Bhima-Koregaon protests in January 2018.

The police had told the media that these five activists were arrested under Sections 153 A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) – i.e promoting enmity between communities – along with several Sections of the UAPA, including 13,16, 17, 18, 18 (b), 20, 38, 39, 40.

The Quint has accessed the Bhima-Koregaon First Information Report (FIR) filed by the Pune police on 8 January 2018.

Interestingly, that FIR was registered only under Sections of 153 A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (i.e promoting enmity between communities), and carried six names in the section of accused – but none of the above five activists.

Also, none of the sections UAPA Act were mentioned in the Bhima-Koregaon FIR. The Pune police have said they have evidence that reveals the involvement of the five activists in unlawful activities, which is what led to their arrests.

The Bhima-Koregaon incident investigation led to highly incriminating evidence like emails, letters, minutes of meetings, resolutions of meetings and other elaborate communication between members of the banned CPI (Maoist) party and the arrested accused. 
Shirish Sardeshpande, Deputy Commissioner, Pune Police

What Does the FIR Say?

The FIR was registered on Tushar Ramesh Damgude’s complaint, a businessman and a resident of Pune.

The FIR, which is written in Marathi, claims that Damgude read on Facebook about the Elgar Parishad event to be held on 31 December 2017. The event was organised by Kabir Kala Manch and Damgude went to attend it at Shanivaar Vaada ground in Pune on the same day. He saw Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid, Ratan Singh, Prashant Dontha and others on the stage.

The FIR added that the program started off with some provocative songs and plays performed by the members of Kabir Kala Manch. It also said that through this program, attempts were made to divide society and incite communal tension, which led to the Bhima-Koregaon incident the very next day.

The FIR mentions a slogan in Marathi and a song in Hindi that were allegedly performed during the program.

“Dhila dhada, navin peshwayi mhasanat gada, udwa thikrya rai rai ra, gaadun takha peshwayi ra, garjana sidhnakachi navyane ra, garaj tila thoka chi ra sainik garaj tila thokachi’.”(Give a blow, finish the new Peshwayi (upper caste), push away thikrya (the old tradition), bury down Peshwayi, roar back the ideology again newly, it needs to be thrashed, soldier, it needs to be thrashed.)

The Hindi song was allegedly sung in the second segment of the program by Sudhir Dharle, a member of Kabir Kala Manch.

Jab Julm ho toh bagawat honi chahiye sheher mein, jab julm ho toh bagawat chahiye sheher mein aur agar bagawat na ho toh, behtar ho ke, ye raat dhalne se pehle ye sheher jalkar rakh ho jaye, ye sheher jalkar rakh ho jaye, ye bagawat apne aap mein ladayi ka elan hai, ye Peshwayi ko humko shamshan ghat mein, kabrishtaan mein dafnana hai, (One should protest against oppression in the city, and if there is no protest, the town should be reduced to ashes before dawn, the revolt itself is clarion call for battle, the upper-caste oppression needs to be laid to rest.) 

Damgude clearly mentions in the FIR that only six members of Kabir Kala Manch, namely Sudhir Dhavle, Sagar Gorkhe, Harshila Potdar, Ramesh Gayichor, Deepak Dengle and Jyoti Jagtap, gave provocative speeches. These six members were named as accused in the FIR.

The FIR also mentioned that previous inquiries hinted at Kabir Kala Manch’s Sudhir Dhavle, Harshila Potdar and some other members’ connections with Naxals.

Damgude mentioned in the FIR that according to him:

“CPI (M) intends to mislead the Dalit community to incite violence. Sudhir Dhavle and his associates took this up as a campaign and took it all across Maharashtra. Members of Kabir Kala Manch conducted several public gatherings and gave such speeches to invoke enmity between the communities. As a result, stone-pelting in Bhima Koregoan turned violent and spread across Maharashtra.”

Pune Police on the Arrests of Activists

The complainant Damgude in his FIR had not mentioned the names of the five activists who were arrested on 28 August 2018.

The Pune Police claimed that the “evidence gathered trace back the involvement of Kabir Kala Manch and arrested alleged accused in mobilisation of funds provided by the banned outfit i.e CPI (Maoist) in inciting the masses against the administration from long before the Elgar Parishad was held on 31 December 2017.”

Interestingly, former Supreme Court judge Justice (retd) PB Sawant was one of the convenors of the ‘Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Diwas Prerna Abhiyan’, an umbrella group of 260 organisations, which held the Elgar Parishad on 31 December 2017.

Justice Sawant has condemned the arrests of the five activists.

Enough Evidence to Invoke UAPA Act?

The Pune police has also claimed the evidence reveals that the activities radicalised the youth and students, and there was a provision of arms and other details trailing back from the senior comrades of Central Committee of CPI (Maoist). The police also said the activists are “actively and deliberately involved in the unlawful activities which led to violence and killings of large number of security personnel and innocent civilians”.

They added that “the activists have shown intolerance to the present political system and decided to target organisations, they are even were thinking of targeting highest political functionary”.

But the police didn’t specify when and how these documents were recovered, what these documents actually say, or what the names of the highest political functionaries who were targeted by these activists were.

Referring to the activists as “urban Naxals” rather than ‘accused’, the police went on say that the evidence reveals the conspiracy hatched by the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation to form the All-India United Front in order to overthrow the government established by law.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court gave interim relief to all five activists by ordering their house arrest – instead of being taken for custodial interrogation – till 6 September.

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