Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mom says son is no Naxal , but police say there is proof

CHANDRAPUR: Leena Shrawan Punekar, an unlettered construction worker, has no idea why the police, on Friday arrested her son Raman from their small hut in a congested labour colony in Ballarpur, 30km from here.

But police are suggesting he has links with alleged Naxalites arrested in Mumbai last year.

Now, a day after a special team of the Chandrapur police arrested Raman, 24, his distraught mother asks what his crime is. A first year BA student, Raman's family had no idea who his friends were.

The police, however, allege Raman is an activist with an underground Maoist outfit called Deshbhakti Yuva Sangathna that apparently has a strong following among students in Chandrapur.

Police claim they arrested Raman after Manoj and Vinayak, alias Vinod Sonule, two alleged Naxalites caught with a cache of China-made arms and literature said they knew him. Manoj and Vinod were  arrested following information given by  Vernon Gonsalves and an accomplice arrested in Mumbai last year.

Gonsalves' wife, lawyer Susan Abraham says the police are making false allegations about Vernon. "All  these incidents are unconnected; cops want to frame my husband," she says. She added that Vernon has not been to Chandrapur since 1993.

Abraham adds her husband could not have given any information to the police since he has been unwell. The police now say more arrests may follow in the next few days.

"Our fear is that the Naxalites are trying to woo students from poor and Dalit
backgrounds, to join their cause," Anti-Naxal Operation chief Pankaj Gupta told DNA.

Leena says all she knows of her son's activities is that he was involved in some 'prachar' (propagation) about Bhagat Singh. She says he works as a part-time screen painter and an agent for private cellphone operators.

According to Chandrapur SP Chhering Dorje, Raman "doubled up as a courier for the Naxals, to deliver letters, money and sometimes arms".

A senior officer of the Anti Terrorist Squad clarified on Saturday that they had not recovered any rocket launchers from Raman, but a China-made stengun with 137 rounds. "It doesn't matter what Raman or anyone else says, we were working on leads from when we first took Vernon into custody last year," the officer added.

(With inputs from Neeta Kolhatkar)

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