Mumbai: Hearing the bail plea of Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves and others, a single-judge bench of Bombay High Court made some strange observations about the activist’s choice of reading material.
The bench on Wednesday asked Gonsalves to explain why he kept “objectionable material” as a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” at home. The single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal said that “such books” and CDs prima facie indicated they contained material against the state.
The Russian novel became a point of debate during the day’s hearing after the Pune Police, probing the case, claimed that the book was part of the “highly incriminating evidence” it had seized from Gonsalves’ house in Mumbai during raids a year ago.
It also read out the titles of other books and CDs allegedly recovered from Gonsalves’ house. The CDs recovered from the house included ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ by Kabir Kala Manch, ‘Marxist Archives’, and ‘Jai Bhima Comrade’, while the books mentioned, were ‘War and Peace’, ‘Understanding Maoists’, and ‘RCP Review’, and copies of a circular issued by the National Study Circle.
Justice Kotwal said, “The title of the CD ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ itself suggests it has something against the state while ‘War and Peace’ is about a war in another country. Why did you (Gonsalves) keep objectionable material such as books like ‘War and Peace’, books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court.”
Gonsalves was arrested by the Pune Police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the Elgar Parishad case. The police had claimed provocative speeches made at the Parishad on December 31, 2017, were responsible for the caste violence around Bhima-Koregaon village in Pune district the next day during an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
One person was killed and several others were injured in the violence.
Others arrested in the case include activists and academics Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, and Gautam Navlakha. The prosecution had informed the court that nothing was found from the electronic evidence recovered from Gonsalves, but added that the books and CDs were incriminating.
The judge said that the Pune Police also have to do “much explaining” to convince the court that the material found on such CDs and in the books incriminates Gonsalves.
The bench also directed the police to provide details of the source of the emails and letters and their authors and recipients. The arguments are likely to continue on Thursday.