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Bhima Koregaon case: Court questions accused for ‘objectionable’ literature kept at home

Vernon Gonsalves was arrested by the Pune Police after raids at homes and offices of several activists in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

PTI | New Delhi |

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves to explain why he kept “objectionable material” like a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and some CDs at his home.

Justice Sarang Kotwal, hearing the bail plea of Gonsalves and others, also said that “such books” and CDs indicated they contained some material against the nation. The classic novel about Russia during Napoleonic wars became a point of contention during the day’s hearing after the Pune Police probing the case said the book was part of the “highly incriminating evidence” it had seized from Gonsalves’ house in Mumbai during raids a year ago.

Pune Police also read out the titles of several other books and CDs allegedly recovered from Gonsalves’ house, which included CDs titled “Rajya Daman Virodhi” released by Kabir Kala Manch, “Marxist Archives” and “Jai Bhima Comrade”; books such as “War and Peace”, “Understanding Maoists” and “RCP Review”, and copies of a circular issued by the National Study Circle.

“The title of the CD ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ itself suggests it has something against the State while ‘War and Peace’ is about a war in another country. Why did you (Gonsalves) keep objectionable material such as books like ‘War and Peace’, books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court,” said Justice Kotwal.

Gonsalves was arrested by the Pune Police after raids at homes and offices of several activists in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.

The police had claimed provocative speeches made at the Parishad on December 31, 2017 were responsible for violence around Bhima-Koregaon village in Pune district the next day during an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. One person was killed and others were injured in the violence.

The police are probing alleged Maoist links in organising the Parishad. Other arrested accused include activists and academics Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, and Gautam Navlakha.

Gonsalves’ lawyer Mihir Desai told the court that Pune Police based the entire case against him on the basis of some emails and letters recovered from the computers of other people. “None of these letters or emails were written by Gonsalves, or were addressed to him. Therefore, in the absence of any cogent incriminating evidence against him, Gonsalves shouldn’t be denied bail,” Desai said.

Opposing the bail application, advocate Aruna Pai, who is representing Pune Police, said while the police did not find any electronic evidence against Gonsalves from the computer and hard disk recovered from his house, the raid had yielded “highly incriminating evidence” in the form of “books and CDs with objectionable titles mentioned above.”