The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has issued a notice to Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER)- Kolkata professor, Partho Sarothi Ray, a renowned social activist and scientist and Convenor of Persecuted Prisoners Soliderity Committee (PPSC) West Bengal unit, for questioning in connection with the Elgar Parishad Case.
According to Ranjit Sur, central secretariat member of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), NIA has asked Partho Sarothi Ray to appear at NIA’s Mumbai Office on September 10 at 11am.
“Professor Ray has been served a notice by NIA asking him to appear for questioning in Elgar Parishad case on September 10 at its Mumbai office. This is an attempt to throttle the voice of those who are critical to government policies. We will protest against this,” Sur told The Indian Express.
Professor Ray did not respond to calls on his mobile phone and and text messages.
The Elgaar Parishad case, which the NIA took over from Pune police, is one of the two ongoing investigations related to the Koregaon Bhima violence witnessed on January 1, 2018. This one is based on an FIR filed in Pune alleging that banned Naxalite groups had organized the Elgaar Parishad, an evening programme organised in the city on December 31, 2017, on the eve of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
Police claimed that speeches made at Elgaar Parishad were at least partly responsible for instigating violence the next day.
According to Sur, a team of NIA tried to visit professor Ray in his campus and serve the notice. “He refused to meet the NIA team due to covid 19 guidelines on maintaining social distancing. Later the NIA served him the notice on his email. We had a talk with him and he said he will consult with his lawyer and take appropriate steps accordingly,” said Sur.
The case became prominent because of the arrests of some high profile activists and lawyers, some of whom are in jail for over a year now. The initial investigation had focused on the people and groups who had organised the event. Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani and former JNU student Umar Khalid were among those who had participated in Elgaar Parishad.
In June 2018, the Pune police had arrested five activists and lawyers from Pune, Nagpur and Delhi, claiming that they had links to banned Naxalite organisation, CPI(Maoist), and had played a role in organizing the event.
Later that year, in August, Pune police carried out simultaneous searches at the houses of eight prominent activists in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa and Ranchi. Its bid to arrest the activists was foiled by judicial intervention, but three months later, it managed to arrest four of them, including Chhattisgarh-based Sudha Bhardwaj, and Hyderabad-based Varavara Rao. They have been in jail ever since. The others, Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based academic and professor, and Delhi-based Gautam Navalakha have managed to obtain judicial reprieve against their arrests.