Letters and emails purportedly recovered from activists arrested by Pune police for Maoist links are riddled with inconsistencies and flawed assumptions, an NDTV analysis has found.
The letters form a core charge against 10 activists, lawyers and intellectuals, mostly Left-leaning, arrested by the police in June and August this year.
On the basis of the contents of these letters, the police have alleged that the group was plotting social unrest and acquiring weapons for major attacks, including a possible assassination attempt on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The police claim to have recovered a vast trove of communication; 13 letters from that have been leaked to the press, or read out in police briefings.
Six of these letters were dated between July 2017 and January 2018, but the rest also seem to have been written around the same period, based on events they refer to. Five of these letters were in Hindi, and the rest in English.
Though the police claim that the letters were recovered from laptops or other electronic devices, they have no physical or digital signatures or email headers.
Experts consulted by NDTV questioned the veracity of these 13 letters: most strikingly, the lack of coded language and secrecy as well explicit mentions of strategies and plans.
“Com (comrade) Ankit and Com Gautam Navlakha are in touch with the separatists from Kashmir… Com Arun Ferreira, Com Gautam Navlakha will be the main participants in this… I also spoke to Com Stan Swamy, who was appointed for PPS work by Com Prashant, but he also did not give any definite promise of money,” reads one undated letter.
These names conform to those arrested by the police – in this case, activists Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha, and Ranchi-based activist Stan Swamy who was raided.
The letters are also full of explicit details of planned operations without any code. For instance, in a letter dated December 26, 2017 between an ‘R’ and a ‘Comrade Prakash’, there are detailed references to buying and transporting grenade launchers.
“I am sending a catalog of the available equipment along with this package “Final Dispatch.pgp.’… (The weapons) will be disassembled, merged inside heavy electronics appliances before it reaches to your designated dumps along Odisha-Chattisgarh border,” writes ‘R’.
In another letter, again from ‘R’ to ‘Comrade Prakash,’ an account of a plot to kill the prime minister is laid out in extensive detail.
“Comrade Kisan and few others senior comrades have proposed concrete steps to end Modi-Raj. We are thinking along the lines of another Rajiv Gandhi type incident. It sounds suicidal and there is a chance that we might fail but we feel that the party PB (Politburo)/ CC (Central Committee) must deliberate over our proposal. Targeting his road-shows could be an effective strategy,” reads the letter dated April 18, 2017.
Ajai Sahni, Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management said the letters are an “obvious and evident fabrication.”
“The entire so-called urban Maoist strategy is defined most recently in 2007 in a 100-page document that mentions the words ‘secret’, ‘secretly’ and ‘secrecy’ 96 times. Even 15-year-olds plotting their first crimes would not write letters like this”, he said.
“While the font, the language and the style (makes) it very tempting to say that it (the letters) look very familiar, I have never seen any comrade, especially senior comrades, being addressed by their direct names,” said Rahul Pandita, a journalist who has covered the Maoist rebellion extensively, and claims to have been privy to other communications between Maoists.
A letter between an ‘SS’ and a ‘Vijayan dada’, dated October 5, 2017 praised the work of Christian missionaries, traditional rivals of the Maoists.
“The role of Christian missionaries is very important in mobilising the adivasis to defend their rights. Through these efforts we can confidently say at least 25% tribals have accepted the path of Jesus Christ in the last five years”, writes ‘SS’.
Swaranjit Sen, former Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh says he is not surprised by these letters. He says the police may have recovered letters “decoded by the receiver and printed out”.
However, he described the idea of Maoists backing missionaries as “ridiculous”.
The letters also feature individuals and institutions seen as critics of the government and BJP as possibly linked to Maoist plots, suggestive of a sprawling, improbable conspiracy.
The roll call includes the Congress (mentioned at least twice), Left and Congress student organisations like the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and the All India Student Federation (AISF), the JNU activist Umar Khalid, Gujarat legislator Jignesh Mewani, the Church, and even overseas academics who work on caste discrimination, insinuating that they are willing to advance the Naxal case.
Conversely, the letters repeatedly raise the spectre of the BJP under threat from these alleged conspirators.
In addition to a reference to a plot to assassinate PM Modi, an October 5, 2017 letter from ‘SS’ asks ‘Vijayan dada’ to abduct senior leaders of BJP to force the party to roll back an anti-conversion law in Jharkhand.
“One such problem is the new anti-conversion bill… There must be some action from your side to capture senior leaders of the ruling BJP… and demand that the oppressive laws be done with,” it reads.
“The selective identification of those who are opposed to this government or the (ruling) ideology” is a cause for concern, said Mr Sahni. “Today if you oppose the government, you are a Mao-vadi (Maoist) or a jihadi”, he said.