New Delhi: More than four years after interrogating an activist couple for suspected Naxal links but failing to arrest them for lack of physical evidence, the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) arrested them on Wednesday, October 18, based on the examination and data extraction from electronic devices seized from them in 2019.
The ATS claimed it found letters and literature from their electronic devices that were linked to the banned Maoist outfit People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) and Communist Party of India (Maoist). The documents were related to these outfits building a strong party and organisation for resistance against the Indian government, the police said.
The ATS says it arrested activist Brijesh Kushwaha, 43, from his native place in Deoria while his wife Prabha, 38, was arrested from her maternal house in Raipur in Chhattisgarh. Prabha’s family sources told The Wire that she was three months pregnant and had gone to Raipur to spend time with family.
While questioning the couple in July 2019 in connection with a first information report (FIR) lodged against them on their alleged Naxal links, the ATS had seized their electronic devices and sent them for examination and data extraction to a forensic science laboratory (FSL).
The ATS says it found documents linked to Naxals after carrying out an “intensive analysis of the report packed with the complete extracted digital data received from the FSL this month.” The ATS also claims it recovered letters of “comrades of CPI (Maoist),” with references to “anti-national activities” from their electronic devices.
The police have accused Kushwaha and Prabha of being involved in “anti-national activities” and spreading Communist ideology through the outfits run by them. While Brijesh is linked to the Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Manch of Deoria, Prabha is connected with the outfit Savitri Bai Phule Sangarsh Samiti.
Kushwaha completed his masters in Sanskrit from Deoria and was linked to the Inquilabi Chhatra Sabha during his student days. He met Prabha while working in Bilaspur in 2006, and they got married in 2010.
Interestingly, when the ATS had raided their home in 2019 and questioned them, it did not find any “credible material evidence” due to which they were not arrested, said the agency.
In July 2019, the UP ATS had lodged an FIR under Indian Penal Code Sections 121 A and 120 B against seven people, all of whom were political and social activists. According to the FIR, a copy of which The Wire has seen, the police said suspected Naxalites had been holding meetings in UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and were engaging in criminal conspiracy to instigate people for armed rebellion and making a plan for satta parivartan (change in government).
At that time, the ATS had arrested two of the seven individuals mentioned in the FIR – Manish Azad aka Manish Srivastava and his wife Anita Srivastava – from their residence in Bhopal. Both of them have a background in translation and academic work. They were later granted bail in this case. Kushwaha and his wife were also named in this FIR.
The police had conducted raids in Bhopal, Kanpur, Deoria, and Kushinagar, and seized several electronic devices and documents.
Although it questioned Kushwaha and Prabha, they were not arrested in 2019, as earlier mentioned.
After arresting the couple on October 18, police said they were also searching their residences. Prabha would be taken to Lucknow on a transit remand, it said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had recently interrogated one of the co-accused in the 2019 FIR, Manish Azad, as it conducted simultaneous searches at the residences and offices of several activists, including Manish’s sister and national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Seema Azad, and students in various cities of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The NIA said its raid was against the suspects in connection with alleged attempts by leaders and cadres of the CPI (Maoist) to revive the banned organisation across UP.