THE NATIONAL Investigation Agency (NIA) filed its first chargesheet in the Elgar Parishad case on Friday against eight persons, nearly ten months after taking over the probe from Pune police.
The agency claimed that the conspiracy related to the violence against Dalits in Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018, was part of a “well chalked-out strategy”, and spread across the country and beyond.
Filed before the special court in Mumbai, the supplementary chargesheet, which is over 10,000 pages, is against Jharkhand-based Jesuit priest and tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy who was arrested on Thursday; professor Anand Teltumbde, activist Gautam Navlakha, who were arrested by the agency on April 14; Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu arrested on July 28; members of cultural group Kabir Kala Manch, Jyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor arrested last month; and, absconding accused Milind Teltumbde, who is alleged to be a top operative of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Two chargesheets were previously filed by Pune police against nine other accused.
Swamy, the 83-year old Ranchi resident arrested late Thursday, was flown to the city and produced before the special court at 1.30 pm Friday. The NIA did not seek his custody. Swamy was sent to judicial custody till October 23.
The agency, in its chargesheet, claimed that Swamy was a Maoist actively involved in the outfit’s activities, and had been receiving its funds. The agency claimed that documents, including propaganda material and literature, were found from his possession. A statement by Swamy, two days before his arrest, said that the NIA had placed several extracts before him implying his connection to Maoist forces, which he claimed were “fabrications stealthily put into my computer”.
The NIA, in its chargesheet, also claimed that Swamy was a convenor of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC), calling it a frontal organisation of CPI (Maoist). Swamy, in his statement, had said that his work challenging indiscriminate arrests of thousands of young Adivasis labelled as “Naxals” was the reason he was being implicated.
The NIA claimed that the role of various frontal organisations had also emerged. It also called Kabir Kala Manch one such organisation, claiming that its poets and singers, Jagtap, Gorkhe and Gaichor, were trained cadres who attended meetings to organise the Elgar Parishad event.
The NIA claimed that Babu was “instrumental in organising visits” of foreign journalists to Maoist areas and was instrumental in making efforts for release of convicted accused G N Saibaba and links with other banned groups.
The agency claimed that Teltumbde was one of the convenors of ‘Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan’ and was present for the Elgar Parishad event on December 31, 2017 and that Navlakha was assigned the task “to unite intellectuals against the government”. It claimed that he was part of some fact-finding committees and that during the probe his links with ISI also came to the fore.
On January 1, 2018, lakhs of Dalits had gathered near Pune to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, won by the British army, which comprised largely soldiers from the Dalit community, against the Peshwas in 1818.
On the day, there was violence with vehicles of those assembled being burnt and people being assaulted.
Following an eyewitness account, an FIR was registered at Pimpri police station on January 2, naming Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, for alleged incitement.
On January 8, however, another FIR was filed by Pune police, claiming that the violence took place due to an event held on December 31, 2017 called Elgar Parishad at Shaniwar Wada in Pune.
Sixteen persons have so far been arrested in the case. Two of the accused, in a petition before the Bombay High Court, have said that the transfer of the case from Pune police to NIA this year was “due to malafides and political expediency” when the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition in the state proposed to constitute an SIT to probe the case.
Meanwhile, the Ranchi Catholic Church, in a statement, said it was “distressed and troubled” over the “way and manner” in which Father Stan Swamy was arrested by the NIA from his residence Thursday night.
“It brings no glory to the name of National Investigation Agency that they could not find time in the daylight to come and take Father Stan Swamy and could reach his residence only after darkness had fallen… He had explained to the investigating authorities that he is an old man, sick, and in this Covid pandemic times, his health was at risk if he travelled to Mumbai….we are shocked at the way Father Stan has been treated,” the Church said.