Bhima Koregaon Case: Why Have You Kept 'War and Peace'?, Bombay HC Asks Activist Vernon Gonsalves
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday, August 28 demanded an explanation from the Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves on the possession of books and CDs that contained material against the state.
Among the material confiscated from Gonsalves home, the court focused on the 19th-century classic ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy, which became a significant point of contention.
“The title of the CD Rajya Daman Virodhi itself suggests it has something against the state, while War and Peace are about a war in another country,” Justice Sarang Kotwal of the High Court said.
“Why did you have these books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court,” he asked. Vernon Gonsalves is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Justice Kotwal of the High Court has heard the bail pleas of Gonsalves and activists Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira since August 27.
The Pune police arrested Gonsalves under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, after raids at residences and offices of several activists involved in the Bhima Koregaon case.
The title of the CD, Rajya Daman Virodhi, refers to “against state repression” in Hindi. It was released by the music group Kabir Kala Manch, comprising of Dalit and working-class musicians and poets.
Aruna Pai, arguing for the police, said investigators had found “incriminating evidence” at Gonsalves’ residence in the form of “books and CDs with objectionable titles.”
Gonsalves’ lawyer Mihir Desai said that possession of such books and CDs do not make Gonsalves a terrorist or a member of any Maoist group. The judge agreed to Desai but demanded an explanation from Gonsalves as to why he had those items at his residence. Simultaneously, the judge also sought an explanation from the Pune Police asking how the material is proof of a crime.
“So far, the police have failed to provide details of what was on the CDs or in the books and pamphlets recovered that linked Gonsalves to the case,” Kotwal said.
“Merely stating that they have objectionable titles is not enough. Have you tested these CDs? What if they turn out to be blank inside? If you [prosecution] do not place on record the content and details of such material, the court will have to ignore them,” he asked.
Desai informed the court that the Pune Police had formed the entire case on some emails and letters recovered from the computers of other people.
“None of these letters or emails was written by Gonsalves, or was addressed to him,” Desai said. “Therefore, in the absence of any cogent incriminating evidence against him, Gonsalves shouldn’t be denied bail,” he said.
Questioning the authenticity of the emails and letters, the judge demanded details of the senders and recipients from the police. The arguments are likely to continue on Thursday, August 29.
Bhima Koregaon Case
Vernon Gonsalves along with activists Shoma Sen, Vara Vara Rao, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, and Gautam Navlakha were arrested on August 2018 in connection with the violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1 2018.
The activists were accused of making provocative speeches at the Elgar-Parishad on December 31, 2017, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. Dalits mark the anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle every year claiming that the scheduled caste soldiers of the British Army had defeated the forces of the Brahmin Peshwas. The day after the event widespread violence was witnessed in various parts of Pune district in which one person was killed, and others were injured.