Corrections and clarifications: The judge clarified on Thursday that he knew Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace was a classic, PTI reported. He said he had merely sought a clarification while reading out the list of books seized from accused Maoist Vernon Gonsalves. A lawyer told the judge that the book in question was actually War and Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoist by Biswajit Roy.
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked activist Vernon Gonsalves to explain why he possessed books and CDs that seemingly contained material against the state, PTI reported. Among the material the court sought an explanation for was the 19th century classic War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Gonsalves is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Justice Sarang Kotwal of the High Court has been hearing the bail pleas of Gonsalves and activists Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira since Tuesday. They were arrested in August 2018 in connection with the violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1 that year.
“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,” Sarang Kotwal said. “Why were you having these books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court.”
The CD’s title, Rajya Daman Virodhi, means “against state repression” in Hindi. It was released by the music group Kabir Kala Manch, which comprises Dalit and working class musicians and poets.
Aruna Pai, arguing for the police, said investigators had found “incriminating evidence” at Gonsalves’ home in the form of “books and CDs with objectionable titles”. Gonsalves’ lawyer Mihir Desai said merely possessing such books and CDs did not make Gonsalves a terrorist or a member of any banned Maoist group.
The judge agreed but said Gonsalves needed to explain why he had such material at home. The judge added that the Pune Police also had to convince the court that the material in the CDs and the books is incriminatory.
“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.”
Desai told the court that the Pune Police had based the entire case on some emails and letters recovered from the computers of other people. “None of these letters or emails were written by Gonsalves, or were addressed to him,” Desai said. “Therefore, in the absence of any cogent incriminating evidence against him, Gonsalves shouldn’t be denied bail.”
The judge asked police for details of the senders and recipients of the emails and letters. The arguments are likely to continue on Thursday.
The police have alleged that the accused organised the Elgaar Parishad event to mark the 200th year of the battle of Bhima Koregaon on December 31, 2017, a day before clashes erupted in the village between Dalits and Marathas.