The Congress added a surprising bit of information to the case involving the death of Special Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, saying on Thursday that one of the persons who had filed a public interest litigation in the matter was connected to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The party also put out alleged phone conversations suggesting that this man, Suraj Lolage, had filed the PIL on the directions of Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, the number two in command of the RSS.
The case involves the suspicious death of Special Judge Loya who was, at the time, presiding over the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter trial in which Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah was then named accused. Loya’s family in 2017 raised questions about the manner of his death, and said that he had been under pressure to deliver a favourable judgment. Shortly after Loya’s death, the judge that replaced him on the case quashed all charges against Shah. And earlier this week, the Supreme Court dismissed several petitions seeking an investigation into Loya’s death, although that decision has been severely criticised.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Congress pointed to the involvement of Suraj Lolage, a man who has in the past been described as a Right to Information activist. According to the Congress release, Lolage filed a PIL in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court on November 27, a week after the Caravan story revealing many questions about the circumstances of Loya’s death.
Following that, by the Congress’ own admission, Lolage was seen at a press conference in the Congress head quarters on January 30, 2018 where he spoke about the need to investigate Loya’s death. The release claims that the Congress did not know his background and proximity to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the RSS at the time. It now claims, however, that Lolage is connected to the BJP and RSS, and that he applied for a BJP ticket from Nagpur for elections to the municipal corporation. The release included photographs featuring Lolage with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, of the BJP, and his name on a banner at an event in which Fadnavis was speaking.
Questions had been raised by others in the past about Lolage’s background. OpIndia.com filed a story in February, soon after the Congress press conference with Lolage, pointing to a number of serious alleged crimes in which he is accused, although the site added this caveat: “unless there is another Suryakant Lolage with similar details who has nothing to do with the Suryakant Lolage who filed the petition in Loya case.” At the same time, Lolage also gave an interview to the National Herald, saying he believed his life was in grave danger.
The Congress offered more details on Thursday, releasing what it claimed was a recording of Lolage speaking to the brother of Satish Uke, another of the petitioners in the Loya case. “The content of the conversations shows that Suraj Lolage was in touch with Bhaiyyaji Joshi through Kotekar, a member of the RSS and an Office Bearer of the BJP. In the conversation, Bhaiyyaji Joshi is referred to as the No. 2 in hierarchy of the RSS. In other words, this direction for initiating the PIL immediately after discreet enquiry on November 23, 2017 was initiated at the instance of Bhaiyyaji Joshi and the RSS and while he was being advised to withdraw the petition, he in the conversation reveals that he was directed not to withdraw it by Bhaiyyaji Joshi.”
Based on these conversations, the Congress concluded that Lolage – a man who had appeared in a press conference at their own headquarters – was actually being directed by the RSS’ Bhaiyyaji Joshi as far as his involvement in the Loya case.
“What does this show? Clearly, Bhaiyyaji Joshi and the RSS were very keen that this matter be heard in the Supreme Court as quickly as possible because they are the ones who initiated the Public Interest Litigation,” the release said. “There are two possibilities. Either Bhaiyyaji Joshi of the RSS wanted that an enquiry into Judge Loya’s death be conducted or wanted an outcome which ensures that the matter is closed without an enquiry.”
The Congress claim comes soon after speculation that Bhaiyyaji Joshi was likely to make way for Dattatreya Hosabale, believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an election to the number 2 position in the RSS. In the event, Joshi was re-elected in March, but not after some speculation about different factions within the organisation having separate views on the matter.