A 30,000-Page Chargesheet

Veteran journalist and renowned human rights activist Gautam Navlakha has been in jail since April 14, 2020. The legal experts think there is no valid ground to keep him in custody because the probe into the case has already been completed. But this biggest showpiece of ‘democracy’ hardly bothers about legal niceties. The government violates its own law with impunity. Anybody can be arrested anywhere anytime under the spacious pretext of Naxalite resurgence. A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court very recently rejected his bail plea. Navlakha, an accused in Elgar-Parishad-Maoist links case was arrested on August 18, 2018. In his bail petition he cited his poor health condition as he suffers from a number of ailments--what is agonising is a lump has been detected in his chest. Initially he was kept under house arrest but this reprieve was short-lived. He was later sent to judicial custody and lodged at the Taloja prison near Navi Mumbai.

NIA which is probing the case opposed Navlakha’s bail plea and described him as an active member of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist). But this Maoist connection allegation is concocted and fabricated. He was never a member of any communist party, Maoist or otherwise.

The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the’ Elgar Parishad ‘conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Bhima- Koregaon war memorial . This memorial is a symbol of upper-caste humiliation. The Pune police that probed the incident initially made a case out of maoist connection without showing any evidence. The NIA later entered the scene and took up the case in which 15 persons were framed as accused under the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian penal code.

The NIA charge-sheet has failed to connect Navlakha with a larger conspiracy against the state and yet he is in jail. This human rights activist seems to be a security threat to the government. They see the spectre of Maoism in every voice of dissent.

For one thing Navlakha has criticised the Maoists and is implacably opposed to Naxal violence but the hon’ble court is not interested in Navlakha’s published writings which are pre-date his arrest. There was no material in the charge-sheet to prove Navlakha has anywhere, by words either spoken or written or by any visible representation attempted to bring hatred, disaffection against the government and stoke violence. But the special court declined to attach any importance to this aspect of Navlakha’s defence.

The trial once starts is going to take a long time to complete as there are 15 accused persons, including Vara Vara Rao who is now on bail, and the charge-sheet is a 30,000- page document with over 150 witnesses. As per NIA observation Navlakha inculcated maoist sympathies among students and others. So he can be put behind bars for an indefinite period! But the very charge is baseless; it has no taker other than the ruling party bigwigs.

Unless human rights bodies across the country get united and launch movement against this illegal detention, Navlakha may remain in jail for the rest of his life though he needs special medical attention immediately. His life is in danger. Another December is approaching to revisit the Bhima-Koregaon episode and it is an opportune moment to raise voices against the conspiracy hatched by the powers that be, to silence the oppressed.

If anything Maoists no longer hit the headlines as they used to do even a few years back. The government has succeeded to isolate them in more ways than one. And yet the persons in charge of state intelligence are working overtime to demonise people’s movements by bracketing them with naxalites. Massive unemployment is generating spontaneous mass outburst here and there and the government is conveniently using maoist stick to suppress people’s anger. Human rights defenders are the worst victims of state repression because they are the voice of the voiceless.

Back to Home Page

Vol 55, No. 13, Sep 25 - Oct 1, 2022