Rights

Mumbai Police Land at Arrested Activist’s House to Inquire About His Whereabouts

Civil liberties activist Vernon Gonsalves is lodged at Taloja jail along with others arrested in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case.

Mumbai: In a strange turn of events, two policemen from Mumbai’s crime branch landed at civil rights activist and lawyer Susan Abraham’s residence in Andheri asking the whereabouts of her husband Vernon Gonsalves, who has been in jail since 2018. Gonsalves, who was arrested in August 2018 for his alleged involvement in the Elgar Parishad case, is currently lodged at Taloja central prison located in Thane district.

Soon after the visit, Abraham wrote a letter to Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh and Bombay high court Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta narrating the entire episode. In the letter, Abraham says that she and her son Sagar were at home when the two policemen arrived at her housing society in Andheri. “My son Sagar and I were shocked and disturbed at this uncalled for visit at a time when the risk of transmission of Covid-19 between police and community members is very high,” Abraham says in the letter.

The sudden visit, Abraham says, created a stressful atmosphere in the housing society, where members are already battling fears of the pandemic.

“The police department is well aware that I am a practising lawyer and has my contact details. It would have served the purpose of inquiry to simply make a telephone call to me to ask where Vernon Gonsalves is,” she wrote in the letter addressed to the Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh.

When the police arrived at the housing society, Abraham said her son Sagar went to the gate to inquire the reason for the police’s visit. He, according to Abraham, had to sit at the gate for close to an hour, where his statement was recorded. The police, she says, are well aware of Gonsalves’ arrest but still asked where he was, which jail and the sections under which he was arrested.

The crime branch officials have termed this as a “routine exercise”.

Gonsalves, along with 10 other rights activists and lawyers, was first arrested by the Pune police. He was taken into custody by the National Investigations Agency (NIA) late last year, when the Centre reassigned the Elgar Parishad case. The agency has made a wide range of allegations against those arrested, from accusing them of the violence that was unleashed on the Dalit community visiting Bhima Koregaon, near Pune on January 1, 2018, to plotting the assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The chargesheet filed by the Pune police had also claimed that the arrested persons, including Gonsalves, are a part of the banned CPI (Maoist). The entire case is built on electronic evidence, the credibility of which has been questioned by several cyber experts.

Before this case, Gonsalves was tried and acquitted in another case in 2013. The crime branch sleuth who visited his house also inquired about that case, according to Abraham’s letter.