The accused in the Elgar Parishad case were shifted from a prison in Pune to Mumbai on Wednesday, days after the National Investigation Agency took over the inquiry, PTI reported.
The accused – Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen and Vernon Gonsalves – were arrested in 2018. The seven men were sent to Arthur Road jail and both women were sent to Byculla prison, an official said.
On February 14, a sessions court in Pune had transferred the case to a special NIA court in Mumbai after the state government said it had no objection to the investigation agency’s plea for a transfer. The court had said the accused should be produced before the NIA court by February 28.
Weeks after the Bharatiya Janata Party lost power in Maharashtra, the Centre took away the case from Pune Police last month and handed it over to the NIA. This initially upset the new Maharashtra government, which opposed the NIA’s application for a transfer on February 7. However, the state government made a U-turn after state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh claimed that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had overruled him. Thackeray is Shiv Sena chief, while Deshmukh is from the Nationalist Congress Party.
Violence broke out between Dalits and Marathas in the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. This came a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 in which the Dalit Mahar soldiers fighting for the British Army defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits on January 2.
The investigating agency named 11 of the 23 accused in the FIR, including activists Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, P Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. Except Teltumbde and Navlakha, the others were arrested by Pune Police in June and August 2018 in connection with the violence. They were accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and are still in prison.