On July 5, Jesuit priest and human rights activist Father Stan Swamy passed away in Mumbai. He had been admitted in a private hospital for treatment after being shifted from Taloja Jail in Mumbai. He was arrested in the Elgar Parishad case. There were two sets of investigations underway relating to the Bhima-Koregaon violence from January 2018. The first one was into the violence itself, based on the complaints of several Dalit women. The second one was into the activities of Elgar Parishad.
Elgar Parishad was a coalition of over 250 Dalit and other non-profit groups who came together to mark the 200th anniversary of the victory of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon. The event was to be a cultural one with several performances and speeches planned. 30,000 to 35,000 people gathered at the Shaniwar Wada in Pune to commemorate the day.
The battle of Bhima-Koregaon was part of the third Anglo-Maratha wars and led to the end of Maratha rule and establishment of British rule in Western India. It was fought on 1 January, 1818 between a large, 28,000-soldier-strong Peshwa army and a small 800-soldier-strong British army which also had several soldiers from the Mahar caste. Mahars had been largely seen as untouchables by the Upper Caste Brahmin Peshwas which led to them joining hands with the British to defeat the Marathas. From 1927, after the visit of Dr BR Ambedkar, the Mahars started gathering at the Bhima-Koregaon memorial to celebrate the victory as the first time they were part of a victorious army in battle.
Here is a timeline of events relating to the Elgar Parishad case:
On December 31, 2017, an event was held in Shaniwar Wada in Pune under the banner of Elgaar Parishad to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima. Several Dalit groups had come togethe for this event. The event was attended by several high profile personalities including Prakash Ambedkar, Jignesh Mewani and Umar Khalid.
On January 1, 2018, violent clashes broke out near Sanaswadi between two caste groups -- Mahars and Marathas. Several people who had gathered at the Jaystambh were injured. 28-year-old Rahul Patangale who was on his way back home to Sanaswadi was killed. His family has said that he was not involved in the Elgar Parishad event. A call for statewide bandh was given by Prakash Ambedkar and while Dalit groups blocked roads and protested, a 16-year-old Dalit boy was killed, allegedly because of caning by the police.
On 2 January 2018, Pune police filed an FIR against right wing activist Sambhaji Bhide and the founder ultra right wing group Shiv Pratap Bhoomi Mukti Andolan Milind Ekbote accusing them of instigating violence in Shaniwar Wadi.
In February 2018, the Supreme Court criticised the state government and probe agencies for the slow progress in their probe against Milind Ekbote, questioning the agenciesâ€™ claims that he was allegedly â€˜untraceableâ€™
On 22 April 2018, one of the key witnesses of the violence, a 19-year-old Dalit woman who had lost her house in the violence was found dead in a well. Her family alleged that she was being pressured to withdraw her statements.
In June 2018, Pune Police arrested several activists including Dalit activist and co-organiser of the Elgar Parishad event Sudhir Dhawale, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, human rights activist Rona Wilson under UAPA. They were accused of being conspirators of the Bhima-Koregaon violence. They were accused of smuggling weapons and funding maoist activities. The Pune Police also alleged that they found electronic evidence which showed that they were involved in a plot to assassinate Modi and wage a war against the country.
In August 2018 the police carried out another set of arrests simultaneously in several parts of the country alleging a maoist link to and arrested activists, intellectuals Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves.
On 29 August, 2018, four eminent personalities -- Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande, Maya Darnall -- moved SC seeking the release of those arrested.
The SC then orders house arrest of all the activists till September 6, 2018
On September 5, the then Maharashtra government told SC that the arrests were not because of political dissent but because of alleged links to maoists.
On September 6, when the deadline for house arrest of the activists was to end, the SC extended till September 12.
On September 12, the SC extended house arrest till September 17
On 28 September 2018, the SC bench refused to interfere with the arrests of the activists and declined to appoint a SIT to investigate.
On January 22, 2020, the government changed in Maharashtra and the new state government under the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP ordered a probe into the case.
On January 24, 2020, the investigation into the Elgar Parishad case was taken over by the NIA. The decision caused a political war of words as the Maharashtra government accused the Union government of not taking its consent before the transfer of the case.
In October 2020, the NIA filed a voluminous, 10,000+ page chargesheet with fresh names. Father Stan Swamy was named in the chargesheet as an accused who tried to bring together Dalit and Muslim forces to â€˜bring down the fascist governemnt at the centreâ€™ and arrested under charges of UAPA and sedition. The police also accused him of having maoist links.
On 23 October, 2020, interim bail for Father Stan on medical grounds was denied by NIA special court
On 6 November 2020, the legal counsel of Father Stan Swamy requested the court straw and sipper as he was not able to drink water because of Parkinsonâ€™s disease. NIA asked for 20 days to respond.
On 26 November 2020, NIA told the NIA special court that they were not in possession of Father Stanâ€™s straw and sipper.
On 18 May, 2021, Father Stan was tested for COVID-19 at the Taloja Jail where he was lodged and tested negative
On 19 May, his health deteriorated and was taken to JJ Hospital but brought back to the prison on the same day
On 24 May, 2021, Father Stan Swamyâ€™s health worsened and he was admitted to JJ Hospital in Mumbai but discharged the same day
On 28 May, the Bombay HC ordered that Father Stan be admitted to a private hospital and he was admitted at the Holy Family Hospital where it was detected that he was positive for the coronavirus.
On 22 March 2021, the NIA special court dismissed Father Stanâ€™s application for bail on medical grounds
In April 2021, Washington Post reported that an American forensic analysis firm Arsenal Consulting had 30 documents to show that incriminating evidence had been planted in the computers of Roma Wilson and others in the Elgar Parishad case. It said that the cyber attacker planted the alleged letters of an assasination plot 22 months before the arrest of Roma Wilson using malware.
On 4 July, 2021, Father Stan was put on ventilator after he suffered from cardiac arrest
On 5 July, at 1:30 pm, Father Stan passed away in the hospital
The other accused arrested in relation to the Elgar Parishad case including Sudha Bharadwaj, Roma Wilson, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen continue to face charges of UAPA and are in prison.