NIA arrests two Pune-based activists in Elgar Parishad case; totally 14 held so far

Published : September 08, 2020 14:23 IST

At a protest by activists against the arrest of Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit activist, in connection with the Elgar Parishad case in June 2018 in Mumbai. Recently, two more activists, Sagar Gorke and Ramesh Gaichor, both based in Pune, were arrested in connection with the case by the National Investigation Agency. Photo: Prashant Waydande

In another round of arrests in connection with the Elgar Parishad gathering, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken into custody the Pune-based cultural activists Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor. The NIA has also issued summons to the sons-in-law of the arrested poet Varavara Rao, asking them to appear as witnesses in the Elgar case.

A total of 14 persons have now been arrested on the charge that they belong to banned Maoist groups, which, investigation agencies believe, organised the Elgar Parishad, a gathering held in Pune on December 31 2017. The police say the Elgar instigated caste-based violence at the Bhima Koregaon site, around 25 km away, a few days later.

Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor are singers and anti-caste activists who belong to the Kabir Kala Manch, a small non-government organisation in Pune. As they were a part of the “Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerana Abhiyan,” an umbrella organisation that put together the Elgar Parishad, their names were on the NIA’s radar. Both activists have told the media the police are coercing them to be witnesses who will testify against those already arrested, in the Elgar case.

In a video recording, which was released online on September 5, 2020, the two men said they were called in for questioning a month and a half ago and were threatened by the police that unless they provided information on those who were imprisoned, they would be arrested. The activists said they refused to submit to the police and if it meant arrest so be it. They said the police wanted them to confess to material that was fictious and which would implicate those accused and jailed.

Ramesh Gaichor says in the video: “We aren’t progenies of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar but are children of B.R. Ambedkar. If you ask us to give false statements against people who have surrendered, we refuse. Today they have called us to Pune, where there are chances that they will arrest us.”

Continuing with their relentless pursuit of proving that Varavara Rao belongs to banned groups that have anti-national motives, the NIA sent notices to Rao’s sons-in-law K.V. Kurmanath, a senior journalist with a national daily, and K. Satyanarayana, a professor at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad. The NIA has summoned them to Mumbai to answer questions regarding the case. Both have denied any involvement in the Elgar.