For 70-year-old Navlakha, a big hall on the first floor of the Comrade B T Randive Memorial Library, is his new home, where he is now staying with his partner Sahba Hussain (71). The building that a team of Navi Mumbai Police is now guarding is owned by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The library is on the ground floor, while Navlakha and his partner are accommodated upstairs.
Navlakha’s release from Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai after more than two years came nine days after the Supreme Court granted his plea seeking house arrest on medical grounds.
Talking to PTI, a villager said, “Most of the local residents don’t know who Navlakha is and for what crime he has been kept under house arrest.”
At least six police personnel, including officers, were seen at the entrance of the library building. A door frame metal detector has been installed at the entrance of the first floor of the structure and police were seen using a hand-held metal detector as well. Besides that, CCTV cameras have been installed to monitor the movements at the staircase of the first floor and a rear area of the property.
A new dish TV has been installed in the hall of the first floor, where Navlakha is staying, he said adding a new refrigerator was also brought for him.
As Navlakha’s month-long sojourn in the village began, the local residents went about their business as usual. People were seen chatting at a paan stall, discussing India-New Zealand T-20 series, while some others were seen reading newspapers in premises of the library, and students studying in the library.
“Though Navlakha is kept under house arrest in the building, the locals don’t know much about him,” Sandesh Patil, a villager, said.
“After the building was finalised for Navlakha’s stay, teams of the Navi Mumbai Police, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials had started visiting the premises for preparing the ground work two days before he was moved in. But we are not aware about the exact reason why he is here,” he said.
“This is for the first time that I saw so many police personnel and media persons in my village,” he said.
After Navlakha was brought to the building on Saturday evening, a large number of police were deployed, due to which there was a murmur among villagers was a “terrorist” has been brought, he said.
“It was only after news appeared in media that people came to know about his house arrest. But they still don’t know who he really is,” Patil said.
Pradeep Varma, who runs a general store opposite the library building, said he does not know who Navlakha exactly was.
“He must be a powerful person as there is heavy police deployment round the clock,” he said.
A police official posted at the site for security said Navlakha will get the facilities as per Supreme Court order.
“Entry inside the first floor hall is restricted and only NIA officials and Navlakha’s lawyer can get access to meet him as per the court order,” the official said.
On day one, Navlakha’s partner Sahba Hussain came out of the house and purchased some vegetables like brinjal, tomatoes besides some items used daily, he said.
“They prepared food on the first floor and had their meal,” he said.
Each and every person who is going inside is being checked in the view of security, he said adding the food items, daily use objects are also being checked.
“Navlakha’s partner can step out and go in again anytime, but Navlakha can come out for a walk only for 40 minutes a day,” he said.
If he comes out for a walk, police will escort him, the official said.
The activist, who claims to be suffering from multiple ailments, was in jail since April 2020 after his arrest in the 2017-18 case.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches made at the ‘Elgar Parishad’ conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which Pune police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city.
According to police, people linked to banned CPI (Maoists) had organised the programme.
The case, in which over a dozen activists and academicians have been named as accused, was later handed over to the NIA.