Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old priest tribal rights activist who was taken into custody by the NIA in October 2020 regarding the Bhima Koregaon case, was denied bail by Mumbai’s Special National Investigating Agency (NIA) court on Monday, Live Law reported. 

This comes exactly after a month since the Bombay High Court granted a six-month bail to co-accused Varavara Rao, the 82-year-old Telugu poet-activist.

In January 2018, violence broke out during the annual celebration called the Elgar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon, a panchayat village in Maharashtra, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. In 1818, Dalits of the village fought the battle as soldiers (mahars) in the British army and defeated the Brahmin Peshwa Bajirao II.

Following the violence, two FIRs were filed- one on January 2, 2018 that accused two Hindutva right wing leaders, including Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, for instigating the violence and the other on January 8, 2018 that accused “urban Naxals” with “Maoist links” who spoke at Elgar Parishad for fomenting political unrest allegedly by conspiring Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assassination. The latter had six names who were members of a cultural organisation named Kabir Kala Manch- Sudhir Dhawale, Sagar Gorkhe, Harshali Potdar, Ramesh Gaychor, Dipak Dhengale and Jyoti Jagtap.

The police had alleged that there were 16 activists who had links with Maoists, backed the event that led to the violence. Since August 2018, Jyoti Raghoba Jagtap, Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Hany Babu and Father Stan Swamy have been arrested and denied bail multiple times.

Most of the accused were neither named in the FIR nor present during the 2018 Elgar Parishad. After the first FIR filed by Tushar Ramesh Damgude under Section 153A, 505(1)(b), and 117 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was added in May 2018 and multiple chargesheets have been filed but with zero trials, allegedly ‘inadmissible’ evidence and the NIA taking over the case in January 2020, some of them have been in jail for over two years now.

Gautam Navlakha– The civil liberties activist and journalist has been in jail since his surrender on April 14, 2020. Navlakha had sought a default bail plea on the ground that the NIA had failed to file their chargesheet within the specified time period of 90 days. However, the NIA argued that Navlakha was under house arrest for 34 days- between August 29 to October 1, 2018, which was declared as illegal by the Delhi High Court and hence would not be considered under custody period. The Maharashtra Police had arrested him on August 28, 2018 and since then he was under house arrest following which he moved to the sessions court, high court and the Supreme Court seeking bail. The Supreme Court rejected his bail plea in March 2020 and asked him to surrender within three weeks. Earlier this year, The Bombay High Court on February 8 denied bail Navlakha once again, the Live Law reported.

Varavara Rao– Rao was arrested in July 2018 and had been lodged in Taloja jail in Mumbai for over two years, under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allows detention without trial for years. His wife had filed a petition seeking his bail on medical grounds which had been rejected and his custody had been extended multiple times by the Bombay High Court. After going through his medical reports, the court had ordered to shift him to Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital where he was undergoing treatment when he was granted six-months bail on medical grounds.

Sudha Bharadwaj– The Pune Police filed a chargesheet in 2018 accusing the 60-year-old activist and lawyer claiming that some documents that were recovered from Bharadwaj’s co-accused mentioned that her activities proved that she was an ‘active member’ of the banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist). Her bail application was rejected that she had filed on medical grounds which the court said wasn’t proved from the medical reports.

Father Stan Swamy– Based in Jharkhand who has worked several years for the rights of the Adivasi communities was taken into custody by the NIA on October 8, 2020. Swamy had filed a petition in the court against the state demanding undertrial prisoners to be released on a personal bond, which he believes to be “the reason for involving him in a serious case” and to “stall the judicial process to give justice to the poor innocent Adivasis”. His bail application was pending with the court since November 2020 on the grounds that he is being framed in the case by the NIA due to the nature of his work and that he is suffering from ailments including Parkinson’s Disease. The NIA had claimed in the chargesheet that Swamy is a CPI (Maoist) cadre who was in communication with other cadres receiving funds from them and that he was a convenor of CPI (Maoists)’s frontal organisation- Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee. It also claimed that it had recovered incriminating documents, literature and propaganda from him which he denied saying they were “fabricated”.

Hany Babu– The 54-year-old Delhi University professor and an anti-caste activist was arrested by the NIA on July 2018 accused of Maoist conspiracy and the Prime Minister’s assassination and has been booked under the draconian anti-terror law, the UAPA. According to a Scroll report, Babu is serving a life term in Nagpur. The NIA raided Babu’s Noida residence without a warrant and confiscated his laptop, mobile phones, two booklets printed for the GN Saibaba (a Delhi University professor serving life imprisonment after being arrested in 2015 for alleged Maoist links) defence committee, and two other books.

Rona Wilson– Hailing from Kerala, a researcher and a public relations secretary for an organisation called Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners was arrested in June 2018 and was accused of writing a letter to a Maoist militant in which he had discussed the requirement of guns and ammunition urging the banned group to assassinate Modi. The lawyer representing Wilson filed a petition last week in Bombay High Court urging to dismiss the case against him on the grounds that a new investigation has found malware in Wilson’s laptop that was one of the key evidences against him, The Washington Post reported. According to a report from a USA-based digital forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, that examined an electronic copy of the laptop at the request of Wilson’s lawyers, an unidentified attacker planted malware on Wilson’s laptop to infiltrate and deposit a minimum of 10 incriminating letters. Following the US agency’s forensic claim, Jaya Roy, a spokeswoman for the NIA said that the forensic analysis conducted on Wilson’s laptop by law enforcement did not show any evidence of malware on the device and that there was “substantial documentary and oral evidence” against the accused in the case.

Anand Teltumbde– Writer and activist who was arrested in August 2018 was accused of having Maoist links and contact with his brother Milind Teltumbe who has been named on the charge sheet as an absconding accused and top operative of CPI (Maoist). Anand denied the charges saying he is critical of Maoist ideology which is proved from the book he wrote Anti Imperialism and Annihilation of Caste, which is a critique of Maoism and also added that he has had no contact with his brother for 25 years.

Jyoti Raghoba Jagtap– The 33-year-old singer and activist who is also a member of the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyaan group was arrested by the NIA on September 8, 2020 from Pune’s Kondhwa.

Shoma Sen– The Women’s rights activist and the Nagpur University professor was also accused of having links with Maoist and carrying out “anti-national” activities. She was also accused of organising the first Elgar Parishad along with her co-accused which all of them have denied.

Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe– The 32-year-old was also a member of the outlawed CPI (Maoist)’s frontal organisation Kabir Kala Manch and was arrested on October 7, 2020 along with Ramesh Murlidhar Gaichor. They were among the six who were named in the FIR in which the complainant had accused them of delivering provocative speeches at the Elgar Parishad.

The other six co-accused including Sudhir Dhawale, Harshali Potdar, Ramesh Gaychor, Dipak Dhengale, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut were also arrested in 2018, continue to be in jail and are still awaiting trial.