Mumbai Police Quiz Jailed Activist’s Family About His Whereabouts

Gonsalves’s wife Susan Abraham wrote to the Mumbai CP and Chief Justice of Bombay High Court regarding the visit.

3 min read
Bail hearings of Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Sudha Bharadwaj are underway at the Bombay High Court

On 11 May 2020, two police officials with the Mumbai Crime Branch reportedly paid a visit to social activist Vernon Gonsalves’s home, with the intent of finding out Gonsalves’s whereabouts. They questioned his wife, Susan Abraham, who is also an advocate and his son Sagar.

What makes this visit peculiar, however, is that Gonsalves is presently lodged in Taloja Jail, in Navi Mumbai. In fact, Gonsalves has been in judicial custody since August 2018 after being jailed in connection with the Elgaar Parishad case. He was accused of being part of a banned Maoist organisation and inciting violence after the Elgar Parishad event held at Pune in 2017.

Advocate Abraham wrote to the Mumbai Commissioner of Police and the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court regarding the visit. Her letter read,

“My son Sagar and I were shocked and disturbed at this uncalled for visit, at a time when the risk of transmission of COVID-19 between policemen (frontline workers) & community members is very high. Also, a visit by the police creates a stressful atmosphere in our society when its members are already battling with fears of the pandemic.”
Advocate Susan Abraham, Vernon Gonsalves’s wife  

Susan Abraham’s concern over the safety of the family comes at a time when hundreds of police personnel in Maharashtra, who have been working on the frontlines, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Abraham further added that her son Sagar, did however record his statement for an hour between 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm outside the society gate. The statement mentions that Gonsalves is lodged in Taloja Jail currently.

Joint commissioner of police (crime) Santosh Rastogi reportedly told The Indian Express that, “It must be a routine check.”

Vernon Gonsalves was arrested in 2018 along with eight other people including, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Rona Wilson.

Gonsalves and the other activists, lawyers and academicians were arrested by Pune police in October 2018 on charges of being part of a banned Maoist organisation and inciting violence after the Elgar Parishad event held in Pune in December 2017.


Concern Over Safety in Jails

Mumbai jails have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. After 185 inmates of the Arthur Road jail tested positive for the virus, an inmate lodged in Byculla Women’s jail too tested positive.

In an effort to decongest the COVID-19 hit Arthur Road jail, at least 400 inmates were allegedly shifted to Taloja jail earlier this month. At a time like this, Gonsalves’s safety has been a huge concern for his family.

“The condition in jails is extremely worrying. Especially, the jail where the two women prisoners in this case, that is, Shoma Sen and Sudha Bharadwaj are kept, which is the Byculla Women’s jail. There is a case detected. In Arthur Road jail, there are over 100 cases and we should not wait for it to reach Taloja jail, where the other 7 from the case, including Anand Teltumbade have been lodged.”
Advocate Susan Abraham, Vernon Gonsalves’s wife  

“We are doing our best to try and get an order from the court for their release on temporary bail. At least till the pandemic is over,” she added.

The Maharashtra government recently announced that 17,000 prisoners lodged in the state jails were being granted temporary parole in a bid to decongest the jails. This, however, doesn't include inmates who are accused or convicted in UAPA, MCOCA, PMLA or other stringent acts.

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