Members of several Opposition parties have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking immediate release of academicians, lawyers and activists detained in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The Bhima Koregaon case pertains to caste violence in a village near Pune in 2018. As many as 16 people were arrested for allegedly plotting the violence.

The letter, dated February 1, was signed by 19 members of the Opposition parties including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Janata Dal, Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam, Kerala Congress (M), and the Indian Union Muslim League.

The MPs alleged that evidence was planted against the accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case.

“Senior writers, activists, and lawyers have now been in jail for over three years in the Elgar Parishad/Bhima Koregaon case on the basis of ‘incriminating documents,” the letter read. “Internationally renowned experts have shown that these documents were planted on their computers via Netwire malware and have been attacked by pegasus.”

The MPs in the letter referred to a recent report published in the New York Times which stated that the Indian intelligence service purchased Pegasus spyware from Israeli company NSO Group.

The use of Pegasus by several countries had come to light in July last year after several media organisations had reported about it. In India, The Wire had reported that 161 Indians were spied on through Pegasus.

“Given the revelations regarding cyber-attacks and the planting of evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case, it is only fair and just that the activists arrested under UAPA in the case should at least be granted bail,” the MPs said in the letter.

The MPs also urged the prime minister to take “immediate remedial measures” to address the “blatant injustice”.

The Bhima Koregaon case

The first chargesheet in the case was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It named activists Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Sudhir Wilson, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018.

The police claimed that they had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A supplementary chargesheet was filed later in February 2019, against poet-activist Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activists Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves and banned CPI (Maoist) leader Ganapathy. The accused were charged with “waging war against the nation” and spreading the ideology of the CPI (Maoist), besides creating caste conflicts and hatred in the society.

The Centre had transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020 after the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, led by Devendra Fadnavis, was defeated.