On July 24, the Pune police told the Mumbai High Court that activist Gautam Navlakha had connections with militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen. Sections of the media were quick to brand him a “terrorist” in primetime shows and reports. Tagging these as “exclusive” reports, the stories were based solely on what the police said and images of a “documents” linking Navlakha with Hizbul.
The police’s revelations came during a July 24 hearing when Navlakha, an accused in the Koregaon Bhima-Elgar Parishad case, approached the Mumbai High Court to quash the FIR filed against him by the police. But what was this document in the first place?
They were part of a chargesheet filed in February 2019 and were allegedly recovered from the computer of activist Rona Wilson, who was arrested by the Pune police from his Delhi residence on June 6, 2018. The police claim they’re written by members of the CPI (Maoist). Remember, the “Maoist” correspondence detailing a “plot to kill the prime minister” was also seized from Wilson’s computer—and its authenticity has been questioned multiple times.
Newslaundry accessed the document mentioned in February’s chargesheet. The document is a nine-page report that, according to the police, was prepared by the CPI (Maoist). There’s no name at the beginning or end of the report to identify its writer. However, rather than establishing Navlakha’s connections with Hizbul, this “report” is highly critical of Navlakha—calling him someone who “deals with” the Home Ministry and Intelligence Bureau, and who “destroyed” the liberation movement in Kashmir. The report also describes Navlakha as someone who “criticises” the CPI (Maoist) for its violent activities.
Here are some instances.
Under the subhead “A report on Gautam Navlakha (GN)”, the report begins: “In this report, we present certain facts related to GN and our assessment of him. This has become necessary in the context of conflicting political assessments about him within our MOs which has erupted into open debates on some occasions. In such a situation, we believe that all the facts in our knowledge pertaining to his activities and role should be presented before you so that you can come to your own assessment about him and see to it that there is sufficient alertness and precautions from our side in dealing with him.”
The report says Navlakha “helped to form” and “closely coordinated” with Coalition of Civil Society, a “funded NGO led by Pervez Imroz, Khurram Parvez and civil society activists in Kashmir”.
Pages 1 and 2 of the document.
It says: “Before this coalition came into existence, a trust was formed by the liberation movement in 1992-93 with Parvez Imroz and Khurram Parvez as members to look after the widows but also to help the movement in different ways. This trust, therefore, had a crucial complementary role in the armed struggle. For instance, money was sent to this trust from the Kashmiri diaspora which was also channelised to the liberation struggle. Our friends in the Kashmir movement tells us that GN in connivance with Parvez Imroz and Khurram Parvez wrecked and destroyed this trust. Parvez Imroz was shot in his leg by the underground movement as a warning because these people embezzled ₹40 lakh meant for the movement channelised through this trust. It was after this that they formed the Coalition of Civil Society. GN had close working relations with Tapan Bose in Kashmir. Bose and his wife Rita are known to have CIA connections. GN and Bose fell out subsequently.”
Tapan Bose is a renowned filmmaker and human rights activist who extensively writes on Kashmir issues.
According to the report, in the mid-2000s, Navlakha met Shakil Bakshi who was chairman of the Islamic Students League in Srinagar. The report claims Navlakha told Bakshi that the CPI (Maoist) wanted to establish contact and a working relationship with the “HM” (Hizbul Mujahideen, the Pune police explained). Navlakha, the report says, introduced himself to Bakshi, who is a senior activist in the movement as a representative of the Maoist Party”—despite “not having any instructions” to do so from senior Maoist leaders.
The report says Navlakha asked Bakshi to “arrange a meeting with HM leadership” as he “wanted to convey a message from the Maoists”. However, “when SAR [SAR Geelani] met Bakshi in Srinagar and came to know about GN’s proposal, he asked Bakshi to stop the meeting between GN and HM. Though this meeting did not take place, GN came back from Srinagar and told us that he has been sent by Sheikh Salahuddin, the leader of HM, with a message to the Maoist party. He said that HM wants to establish a relationship with our party and that someone should go and meet Shakil Bakshi for this as he is the contact person.”
Pages 3 and 4 of the document.
The report continues: “At that time, we had informed SUCOMO [Sun Committee On Mass Organisation] about GN’s message without knowing that GN is actually lying to both sides. We realised this only later when our team went to Kashmir on a fact-finding visit and talked to Shakil Bakshi. It was clear that he acted as the representative of the Maoists to the HM and of the HM to the Maoists without any of the organisations’ knowledge or approval.”
It is this section based on which the Pune police and media claimed Navlakha has connections with the Hizbul Mujahideen.
The report continues that Navlakha collaborated with Angana Chatterjee and others in the International Tribunal on Kashmir: “Chatterjee runs an intercontinental NGO funded by the imperialist forces. In 2009, when the mass movement in Kashmir was at its peak, GN and Chatterjee tried to create rifts among the leadership of the movement by using members of Coalition of Civil Society. GN and Angana Chatterjee went to Srinagar and met Masarat Alam where he was in hiding to evade arrests and was guiding the mass movement from there. The next day of the meeting, however, Alam was arrested. GN again met Alam in jail and told him that some of the open leaders of Kashmir movement will be targeted and killed by HM. As a result GN created a situation in which the open leaders were suspecting each other and an unfortunate rift emerged between Masrat Alam and SAS Geelani.”
Angana Chatterjee is a leading anthropologist and activist who currently resides in the US. She was a researcher with the Indian Social Institute and Planning Commission of India. Chatterjee co-founded the People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and has worked on human rights issues on religion and gender in Odisha and Gujarat. She’s also worked in relief camps after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and worked with the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The report states that Navlakha sent someone called Ashish Gupta from the People’s Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR) to Srinagar to “establish contacts with HM”. There, Gupta met Parvez Khan, believed to be close to HM, and told him he was sent by “Kishenji to establish bilateral relations and to open channels for arms supply with HM”. However, Gupta disappeared somewhere in Kashmir despite Khan telling him to wait for the contact person.
Pages 5 and 6 of the document.
Gupta’s disappearance, the report says, made Khan suspicious so Khan came to Delhi to meet Maoists and find out about Gupta’s mission.
“Ashish Gupta worked in MASS, a human rights organization in Assam. He was the general secretary of NCHOR [NECHOR, or North East Coordination of Human Rights Organisations]. When ULFA found that his wife got a military contract to build helipads they warned him and asked to leave Assam. He had to suddenly leave everything there and come to Bengal where he started working as a journalist. Later he shifted to Delhi and join PUDR.”
The report says Parvez Khan met Maoists in Delhi and approached Vilas to whom he introduced himself as “Mr Sheikh”. “He claimed that he is coming on behalf of HM leadership. He told that HM has accepted the proposal for bilateral relations and weapons from the Maoists sent through Ashish Gupta, provided the Maoists give HM access to the North-east movements … Khan said that HM wanted to have access to the eastern border, particular Myanmar, from where they wanted to procure arms. Vilas did not respond to Khan at that time.”
The report says “SAR verified with HM” and discovered there was no such proposal from the Hizbul Mujahideen. “It was then that the veracity of the proposal as well as the people involved in this episode including Ashish Gupta and Parvez Khan was doubted by us. Parvez Khan is close to Coalition of Civil Society and in this way close to GN. Khan is known to be a double agent pretending to be close to HM but working for the Indian state. He was a member of HM in the past, took military training and was active in the movement. But after his arrest he sided with the Indian state, turned into a renegade and passed on the information to the state about the UG [underground] movement. He was once close to Sheikh Salahuddin … and maintained this contact even when he covertly working for the Indian state.”
The report says Navlakha met NN Vohra, former defence secretary, former advisor to the prime minister, and governor of Jammu & Kashmir and was closely working with him since 2008. He met Vohra in a “secret meeting” after he released his report on state atrocities in North Kashmir in 2012. Vohra was chairman of a government-sponsored NGO which was involved in attracting Kashmiri youth through a programme called Himayat, the report says, in order to divert them from the movement so the movement can be “crushed”.
Pages 7 and 8 of the document.
“During the same trip to Kashmir GN got renegade elements of the movement (now working with the govt) to sit on a dharna at Press Enclave in Srinagar demanding their rehabilitation. It was an attempt to change the ongoing discourse of Azadi to a discourse of ‘peace’ and rehabilitation.”
According to the report, Navlakha works with NGOs in Kashmir which are funded by the Army and Home Ministry. He closely collaborates with Saheba Hussain (once the daughter-in-law of MF Hussain) in running NGOs that work in weaning away the youth from the liberation movement. The report says during the campaign for justice for Afzal Guru, Navlakha and his colleagues were carrying out a “counter-campaign” in Delhi.
The report says Navlakha played a role in securing bail for Binayak Sen through “backdoor dealings with the Home Ministry”. During this process, it says, he first met ND Padhi along with Sen’s wife Ilena, and requested Padhi to provide Sen with bail on health grounds. Padhi, the report says, intimidated Illeena Sen and told her that her husband will be given maximum punishment possibld to “teach a lesson to intellectuals in the country”. Three days later, Navlakha was called by Padhi for dinner where the latter proposed organising a huge conference on Naxalism in Delhi. Navlakha was asked to approach the Maoists to send 300 delegates who would then interact with a government and neutral delegation of 300 people. The two-day press conference was supposed to be the announcement of the peace process between the government and Maoists.
The report claims the Maoists asked Navlakha “why such drama” was required for a peace process initiation after which Navlakha got angry and asked why they were “spoiling a great opportunity”, and that the party would be “encircled and smashed”. Navlakha also told the Maoists they would “regret” this “in future”.
The document says Navlakha then took Ilena Sen to meet Sonia Gandhi to ask her to release Binayak Sen. Gandhi consulted with Jaipal Reddy, who gave the green signal for Sen’s release, saying he was a human rights activist being framed. Sonia Gandhi then directed Navlakha to take Ilena Sen to meet Chidambaram, the report claims, who said bail wouldn’t be opposed if Binayak Sen condemned Maoist violence. Ilena then met her husband in jail, it says, and released a press statement condemning Maoist violence.
“But Chhattisgarh government did not listen to Chidambaram and opposed bail. Then Chidambaram asked the Indian Express from Chennai to take up a campaign for the release of Binayak Sen. Most of this story came from GN himself. Later on it was verified through journalists involved and Jaipal Reddy himself.”
When bail was rejected by the Supreme Court, Navlakha took Sen’s wife again to Chidambaram, who sent officials to the Chhattisgarh chief minister. “But they asked Ileena Sen to file bail petition once again after the results of the general elections. This time when the bail petition was moved, without a single word coming from the advocate Ram Jethmalani, the bail was granted,” the report says.
The writers of the report—members of the CPI (Maoist), according to the police—says Navlakha told them his life is under “significant threat” from Maoists and leaders of Kashmir’s underground movement and it had been “leaked” that he’d met top officials from the Home Ministry and Intelligence Bureau. The report also mentions Swedish author Jan Myrdal and how Navlakha was involved in the process that led to Myrdal’s ban from future visits to the country and that he visited a “movement area”.
Page 9 of the document.
The report notes that Navlakha’s role is well-known in “promoting and establishing links with the Indian establishment” and Nepali Maoist leaders Prachand and Bhattarai. “Some of the comrades from Nepal recently shared with us how he along with Anand Swarup Verma played a crucial role in derailing the Nepal movement.”
Anand Swarup Verma is a writer who has written extensively on Maoist issues.
The report says: “GN turned completely against us and the movement after he fulfilled his goal of going into the movement area and establishing himself as the authority on the Maoist movement in India and abroad. He started interfering in our organisations and dividing comrades and also organising some of the expelled elements from our organisation into an organisation. His negative intervention and disturbance into our mass organisations came out blatantly when we organised a convention against death penalty given to Jeetan Marandi in Ranchi in May 2011.”
These excerpts are only some examples of the vehement criticism of Navlakha expressed in the report. The focus of the report is on his connections with government officials and how he vilified the Maoists, rather than his connections with the Hizabul Mujahideen. It’s clear the Pune police used selective passages from the document to establish this “connection”.
Newslaundry contacted Shivaji Pawar, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Swargate Division, Pune, and investigating officer of the case. Pawar said: “We made the claims on the basis of documents which is in the chargesheet.” When questioned further on the report’s authenticity and its other claims of Navlakha’s government connections, Pawar said: “We have said whatever was required in court.”