With the arrest of Jyoti Raghoba Jagtap, Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe and Ramesh Murlidhar Gaichor earlier this week, a total of 15 people have been arrested till date in connection with the Elgar Parishad Bhima Koregaon case. The National Investigation Agency, which is probing the case, has charged the 15 arrested under provisions of the draconian anti-terror law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and various sections of the IPC.
On Tuesday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) released a statement where it said that it had arrested Jyoti, Sagar and Ramesh, members of cultural group 'Kabir Kala Manch' (KKB), which the NIA claims it to be a â€śfrontal organizationâ€ť for the outlawed CPI (Maoist). KKB was the primary organisers of the Elgar Parishad event in Shaniwarwada, Pune, on December 31, 2017, that was held to mark the 200th commemoration of the Bhima-Koregaon battle.
A brief history
Violence had erupted near Koregaon-Bhima in January 2018 when Dalit groups were commemorating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, in which the British defeated the Peshwas of Maharashtra. A memorial, located at Perne village on Pune-Ahmednagar road, was constructed by the British in the memory of soldiers who died in the battle. Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory as soldiers from the Mahar community were part of the East India Company's forces. The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of assertiveness by Dalits.
In December 2017, a big event was planned to commemorate the 200th year of the battle. The event was attended by several prominent personalities like Prakash Ambedkar, president of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, activist Soni Sori, Radhika Vemula, Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid and others. However, two days later, on January 2, 2018 violent clashes broke out between the two castes and in the violence that took place, several Dalits who gathered at the Jaystambh were injured, and one person identified as 28-year-old Rahul Patangale was killed.
The Bhima Koregaon violence led to the retaliation of Dalits, causing a state-wide bandh.
An FIR filed in connection with the violence had alleged that Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) activists allegedly made provocative speeches leading to violence at Koregaon Bhima in the district. The complainant had alleged that the "provocative" speeches and presentations made during the entire programme "promoted" enmity between two groups. The Pune police had registered a case against Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote and another right-wing leader Sambhaji Bhide, and both were accused of orchestrating the violence.
The Pune police filed a charge sheet and another supplementary charge sheet in the case on November 15, 2018 and February 21, 2019 respectively.
The arrests were made in a phased manner. In the first round of arrests which happened in June 2018, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen and Rona Wilson. Subsequently in August 2018, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Vernon Gonsalves were detained. The NIA took over the case earlier this year in January. Subsequently it arrested academician Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha on April 14, 2020. In July, another academician and anti-caste activist Hanybabu Tarayil, associate professor in the Department of English, Delhi University, was arrested.
All of them have been charged under provisions of anti-terror law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and IPC sections 153 A (promoting enmity between groups), 505 (1)(b) (with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public). 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than 10 persons). They have also been charged under Sections 13 (unlawful activities), 16 (terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy), 18B (recruiting of any person or persons for terrorist act) 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang or organization) and 39 (offence relating to support given to terrorist organisation) of the UAPA.
Many of these arrested activists have been languishing in jails for nearly two years without a trial.
However, Milind Ekbote, president of Dharmaveer Sambhaji Maharaj Pratishthan and Sambhaji Bhide, a man associated with the RSS and founder of Shiv Pratishthan, who were accused of causing the violence never faced any serious action. While initially Ekbote was arrested and released on bail, Bhide was never arrested.