There’s a continuing postscript to the convergence of conflict and rights, and right and wrong. On occasion, more wrong than right.

On 6 June, teams of the Pune police arrested five people from Mumbai, Delhi and Nagpur on the charge of being over-ground Maoists. A letter, which police claim was found in the home of one of the accused, contained an intent to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi: with modus, approach, and conspirators’ names as clear as day.

Some of the accused were also booked for making inflammatory pro-Dalit speeches that, police allege, led to widespread violence on 1 January in Koregaon Bhima near Pune. Dalit-priders were on that day celebrating the 200th anniversary of a defeat of the Peshwa’s army, seen by Dalits as being those of traditional oppressors, against the East India Co.’s forces, including the Mahar Regiment—their people, as it were.

A key person recorded as having led the attacks against Dalits in the Koregaon Bhima fracas remains free, but let us leave aside for a moment caste’s deadly cycle of repression, rage, revenge—and patronage.

The Maharashtra government is under pressure to contain the Maoist rebellion in its eastern districts. It is also riding the tiger of caste politics. All together, a tricky field ahead of elections to the Lok Sabha due in 2019, in which the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), both in Maharashtra and at the helm in New Delhi, is currently on the defensive after a slew of electoral defeats in several by-polls.

Did that lead to the arrests, and the attempt by police to link Maoists and the Dalit movement? That is not improbable: governments across India have attempted to correctly and incorrectly link armed rebels and unarmed protesters for everything from land acquisition to mining matters. Did a genuine concern merge with imagined reality?

Maoists have targeted politicians, especially those who significantly moved against them.

In 2003, Maoists narrowly missed killing Chandrababu Naidu, the current chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, and chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh at the time. Naidu was badly injured in the attack on his motorcade. In 2008, the chief minister of West Bengal at the time, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and two union ministers, Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada, narrowly escaped an attempt on their lives, after an improvised explosive device set up by the Maoists exploded in the path of their motorcade near Midnapore town.

The son of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi was killed in October 2007. In March that year, Maoists killed Lok Sabha MP Sunil Mahto.

In 2013, nearly the entire Congress command in Chhattisgarh was wiped out, including V.C. Shukla and Mahendra Karma, in a Maoist ambush south of Dantewada town. That state’s chief minister, and his counterparts in Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, and Maharashtra, which have active Maoist zones, are declared Maoist targets.

Maoists also pour vitriol on Modi, their propaganda calling him everything from “fascist" to “killer" of innocents in Gujarat and elsewhere. “The US stooge Manmohan Singh" is arguably the gentlest term Maoist propaganda used about the former premier.

So, there’s precedence of intent and action. But there’s also precedence of suspect evidence and security rhetoric.

Several security analysts and even parties that have no truck with Maoists, such as the Shiv Sena, have questioned the validity of accusations by the Pune police, especially the Modi-target letter. It has dates mixed up, breaks Maoist protocol by spelling out names of alleged conspirators. Besides, it is an incendiary letter simply left lying around.

Incredulity is further buttressed by precedence of proof displayed at the time of trials-by-media, either not shared with the defendants’ legal team or presented in court during trial. Indeed, earlier this week, two accused by the Mumbai police of Maoist links back in 2007, Arun Ferreira—accused of being the Maoists’ communication chief—and Vernon Gonsalves—charged with being a key Maoist manager of finance—demonstrated precisely this suspect approach in a co-authored article.

Truth, not truth as farce, needs to triumph on judgement day.

Sudeep Chakravarti’s books include Clear.Hold.Build: Hard Lessons of Business and Human Rights in India, Red Sun and Highway 39.

This column focuses on conflict situations and the convergence of businesses and human rights and runs on Thursdays.

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