Mumbai: Justice (retired) B.G. Kolse-Patil has alleged that a team of Maharashtra state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad has been trying to “spread panic” in his neighbourhood by visiting his residential complex and questioning his neighbours and security guards about him.
Kolse-Patil, one of the main organisers of Elgaar Parishad held in Pune’s Shaniwar Wada on December 31, told The Wire that a team of officers, who identified themselves to be from the ATS, had visited his residential complex in Pune on September 22.
“If they had any inquiries to make, they could have directly come to my house and not do a roundabout thing of questioning my neighbours and security guards. I am not some fugitive criminal but a law-abiding citizen who is leading a public life,” said the 76-year-old retired judge.
According to Kolse-Patil, a team of officers entered the residential complex around 7 pm in a “police jeep” and headed straight to the security guard. They met a few neighbours and asked them about Kolse-Patil’s work and his daily movements, he alleged.
“I was scheduled to leave for Delhi that day. But since I was not keeping too well, I cancelled the plan and was home when the officers visited the housing society,” Kolse-Patil said. He added that it was one of his neighbours who had informed him about the police’s presence in the complex. “There was no reason for the police to make queries with my neighbours. They did it only to spread fear among people,” he said.
Kolse-Patil, who has been leading an active social life since his retirement, has openly criticised the Pune police for arresting activists and lawyers and branding them as “urban Maoists”. Since the Bhima Koregaon caste violence on January 1, the Pune police has been carrying out raids and sudden searches of houses of activists and lawyers across the country. Subsequently, ten persons were arrested for their alleged role in “instigating” the violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 as lakhs of Ambedkarites had gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon.
The retired judge said he has complained against a police sub-inspector named Pankaj Barwal, who reportedly visited his housing society. “I immediately called up the Pune police control room and informed about the presence of the police in the area,” he said.
After Kolse-Patil publicly denounced the alleged move by the ATS, the retired judge claims that another officer visited his residence to apologise. “Another officer, who identified himself as Pingle, came to my residence on September 24 around 10.30 am and said the inquiry was made in my interest. He claimed that there have been threats to my life and hence the police were acting upon information. These claims sound bizarre,” he said.
Both the Pune police and the ATS has refuted Kolse-Patil’s claim. “We have not sent any officer from our department to his residence,” claimed a senior official at Pune ATS requesting anonymity.
Similarly, on September 21, another team allegedly visited cultural activist Vira Satidar’s residence in Nagpur. Satidar says, the team from Nagpur police only made a few inquiries and left. “They did not visit my neighbours as they did in the case of Justice Kolse-Patil. They just said they have orders from the seniors to go and check about my whereabouts,” Satidhar said. Calling the police’s action unwarranted and a measure to scare activists, he said, “There is no criminal case against us. We are all working in the public domain. These sudden visits are only meant to intimidate people.”