Arun Ferreira says that by not waiting for report of judicial inquiry into Bhima-Koregaon violence, the government is muzzling the people’s movement in the country
In an exclusive interview, political activist and lawyer Arun Ferreira, who was picked up on charges of being a naxal operative in 2007 and later acquitted by the court, speaks about how ruling parties have always targeted people working for social upliftment of the poor, especially in rural and interior parts of the state. An alumnus of St Xavier’s College, Ferreira has a degree in law. He has been spearheading the movement to fight against the “unethical” means adopted by the police and government, and is currently representing Dhawale.
What do you have to say about the recent arrests made by the Pune Police?
I see the whole series as an attempt by the police to arrest and target social activists and thereafter, fabricate evidence.
You are said to be representing Sudhir Dhawale. Is this correct?
Technically, Sudhir Dhawale has to sign my vakalatnama. This was not done as I was not present in court. But, in a way I am [his lawyer]. Sudhir has never been secretive about his role as a member of the Bhima Koregaon Prerna Abhiyan. The Abhiyan is an amalgamation of almost 250 organisations, including former Supreme Court and High Court justices. According to Dhawale and other activists of the Abhiyan, funds for Elgaar Parishad were acquired by crowdfunding and mass collection through receipt books. Hence, the allegation that Dhawale received funds from Maoists is totally false.
Do you think due process has been followed?
I believe that there is a blatant abuse of the due process. Immediately after the Bhima-Koregaon related violence, the CM had ordered for setting up an inquiry commission by an ex-HC Judge. Justice JN Patel [ex-Chief Justice of Kolkata, HC] was appointed and the enquiry has begun. The due process would have been to allow the Hon’ble Justice to conduct the inquiry and if the inquiry concludes that there has been an offence of conspiracy regarding the violence, the Commission would order the registration of an FIR. However, this entire process has been circumvented by the Pune Police. By arresting these persons prior to this logical process, the police are attempting to prejudice the findings of the inquiry.
How many such cases that are filed have seen a logical end in your estimate?
I would not have an estimate of the number of such cases. However, it is common in such politically motivated cases that the police often seek a media trial instead of a judicial one, thus abusing the process of a fair trial.
Do you think the arrests are an attempt to divert attention from core issues?
The present political set-up has often used the garb of “an assassination bid” just prior to elections to divert attention from core issues, generate false sympathy and whip up hollow nationalism. Sympathisers say the arrests are an attempt to muzzle the left movement, but also to crush social activists who organise the poor and the marginalised