Bhima Koregaon case | Arrested activists allege NIA pressure to apologise

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested three members of a cultural organisation in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case for allegedly spreading the ideology of Maoism or Naxalism and encouraging unlawful activities.

The three accused have been identified as Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe, 32, Ramesh Murlidhar Gaichor, 36, and Jyoti Raghoba Jagtap, 33, all residents of Pune.

A day before he was arrested, Mr. Gorkhe put out a video statement on Kabir Kala Manch’s Facebook page where he claimed that the NIA was forcing them to become a State witness and tender an apology.

“We were called for questioning last month and were released by the NIA after being examined. NIA asked us to write an apology and told us that we will be released if we do so. We refused as we are the sons of Ambedkar and not a follower of Savarkar. We might be arrested today,” the video posted on Monday morning said.

Mr. Gorkhe and Mr. Gaichor had received summons to appear before the NIA on Monday. They said in the video that they had performed on stage at the Elgar Parishad rally on December 31, 2017 and the next day a mob led by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote attacked the people who had congregated there.

In a press release, NIA claimed that Kabir Kala Manch is a frontal organization of the banned terrorist organisation CPI (Maoist).

Following the arrest, the Manch said in a press release that Jyoti Jagtap has been working in the Ambedkariate movement as an artist, activist and writer for many years. “Arrests of these three should be considered as an alert,” the Manch said.

NIA said the case was originally registered by the Pune police for “inciting people and giving provocative speeches during Elgar Parishad organised at Shaniwarwada in Pune by the activists of Kabir Kala Manch on 31.12.2017, which promoted enmity between various caste groups and led to violence, resulting in loss of life and property and State-wide agitation in Maharashtra.”

The NIA took up the investigation of the case on January 24 this year and arrested academic and Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde and journalist Gautam Navlakha on April 14. Delhi University professor Hanybabu Musaliyavirtil Tarayil was arrested on July 28.

The agency said that the three accused arrested on Tuesday were propagating Naxal activities and Maoist ideology and were a co-conspirators with other arrested accused. “It has also come on record that the arrested accused persons were in contact with absconding accused Milind Teltumbde about Urban network of CPI (Maoist). Also it is established that during their visits (of Kabir Kala Manch members) in jungle, they underwent weapon and explosive training and awareness programme on various topics related to Maoist movement,” the NIA said.

The accused were remanded to police custody till September 11.

In 2018, the Pune police arrested Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao, for their alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon riots.

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