ON February 11, 2019, when advocate Surendra Gadling and 80-year-old poet Varavara Rao — both human rights activists — were asked by the judge about any complaint against the police authorities of ill treatment, the duo replied with a smile, and said that though the Investigating Officer was gentleman and treated them well, he was made to keep the two of them in solitary confinement separately for the past 12 days. Gadling and Rao told the court that various officers would come and say that they don’t want to interrogate but only to “interact” with the duo, in separate cells.
Surendra Gadling and Varavara Rao stated that they have spent 23 hours every day in a dark cell each, without any light, and without there being anyone but their soul, their conscience, and inner self to speak with.
On January 31, 2019, both of them were taken into custody from Yerwada jail in connection with a 2016 case. It is being alleged that these two masterminded the arson at Surjagad, wherein 78 trucks were burnt down by naxalites.
Also read: The forgotten of Bhima-Koregaon arrests: Ordeals of Dalit advocate Surendra Gadling and revolutionary poet Varavara Rao
Production warrants for Advocate Surendra Gadling was obtained on November 12, 2018 — couple of days before his statutory bail case was to be finally decided by the Supreme Court. It was contended before the apex court by the counsels of Surendra Gadling, that the said warrant was obtained with malafide intentions to keep him in custody for prolonged periods, and scuttle the order of the court in case bail were granted to him.
The Court had taken cognisance of the same and arguments were advanced on both the sides. After detailed hearing, the matter was closed for judgment. In this backdrop, police invoking the same production warrant, though it is seized of by the apex court itself, was argued to be illegal, and has been, quite naturally, questioned by many constitutional experts.
The modus of obtaining no objection from the Pune court, where Advocate Gadling was arguing his case in person, also supported the arguments of malafide intentions, since the application seeking no objection was moved in the latter half of the day and order was obtained late in the evening.
On February 1, 2019, when Gadling and Rao were produced before the JMFC Aheri, in the Surjagad case, it was argued by both activists that, it was sheer harassment, and was motivated to break them morally and cause them physical pain. Though arguments were advanced seeking rejection of remand itself, court granted police custody remand of 12 days without assigning any reasons for such a prolonged custody. It would be interesting to note that, even the remand application did not have any justification for the same.
Upon completion of the remand time, on February 11, after hearing both the sides, and noting that there was no progress shown in investigation after huge time giving in police remand with respect to the crime in question, the court directed to transport both Gadling and Rao forthwith to Yerwada jail. However, the court did not take any action on the issue of keeping the two in solitary confinement, even though it was completely unnecessary.
Irony, however is, Advocate Gadling who defended many in the same court, had to stand as an accused. The crime he committed is to challenge and expose police for their exploitation of the poor and the innocent.