Mumbai: After questioning them over several days, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested cultural activists Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor in the Elgar Parishad case. With their arrest, 14 persons – all academics, lawyers and activists – have been arrested in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case in total.
Gorkhe, 32, and Gaichor, 38, both well-known singers and anti-caste activists based in Pune, were part of the ‘Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerana Abhiyan’ – a banner under which the Elgar Parishad event was organised on December 31, 2017 at Pune’s Shaniwarwada area, known to be a predominantly Brahmin hub. The police, following a complaint by a right- winger Tushar Damgude, had named six persons in the FIR for allegedly trying to incite violence between two communities – the Marathas and Dalits – in Pune.
Both have alleged that the NIA had been forcing them to give statements against those arrested. “We were forced by the NIA to give false statements that we are linked to the underground banned (CPI)- Maoist organisation. They asked us to write a confessional statement seeking forgiveness. The officials also wanted us to implicate others arrested in the case. Since we refused, the NIA is likely to arrest us,” the two claimed in video they had recorded on September 5.
Gaichor, in the video recording further adds, “We aren’t progenies of (Vinayak Damodar) Savarkar but are children of Dr. Ambedkar. We have done nothing, we have always followed the constitution. Confessing to things we have never done is out of the question.”
Kabir Kala Manch activists Sagar Gorkhe & Ramesh Gaichor have alleged that they’re being forced by the NIA to give confessional statements claiming they are a part of Maoist organization. The two refused, and were arrested today.
(This video was recorded on Sep 5.)@thewire_in pic.twitter.com/1YytI1CGXs
— Sukanya Shantha (@sukanyashantha) September 7, 2020
“This is an intentional tactic to claim that the Elgar Parishad event was a Maoist event. They are forcing us to confess to things we have never been involved in and would late use it against everyone arrested in the case and declare the entire Elgar Parishad event as a Maoist event. It is not acceptable to us and we won’t let that happen,” they claimed in their video statement.
Similar allegations were also made by Delhi University associate professor of English, Hany Babu M.T., who was arrested in the case on July 28.
Gorkhe and Gaichor were named in the FIR all along but had not been arrested. In July this year, they were called for questioning for a few times and then let off. Finally, on September 4, they were called in again.
This is not the first time activists of the Kabir Kala Manch have been targeted. Both Gorkhe and Gaichor, along with several other Dalit Bahujan youths of Maharashtra, were first arrested in 2013 – when the Congress-NCP government was in power in the state – and booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged links with the banned CPI (Maoist) organisation. Gorkhe and Gaichor were released on bail in 2017 and the case is still pending in Mumbai’s session court.