Activists Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha on Tuesday surrendered before the National Investigation Agency in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, PTI reported.
The activists, who were directed by the Supreme Court on March 16 to surrender within three weeks, had moved a plea in the top court seeking extension of time, on the ground that going to jail during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is “virtually a death sentence”. However, a bench led by Justice Arun Mishra had on April 8 said the time for surrender would not be extended and that this was the “last opportunity”.
Teltumbde surrendered at the investigative agency’s office in Mumbai and Navlakha surrendered in NIA’s Delhi office. “Keeping with the Supreme Court’s directive, Anand Teltumbde appeared before the NIA to surrender,” his lawyer Mihir Desai said.
Teltumbde was later remanded to NIA custody by a special court in Mumbai till April 18. Navlakha was supposed to be produced before the court in Mumbai through video conference.
On Monday, several Dalit leaders, including MPs and MLAs, issued a statement calling the arrest of Teltumbde in the Bhima Koregaon case a “national shame”. More than 5,000 individuals and over 15 organisations around the world had also urged the Centre to delay Teltumbde and Navlakha’s arrest on April 2.
Navlakha and Teltumbde were charged under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code, following the violence at Bhima Koregaon village near Pune in 2018. The case subsequently made by the Pune Police accused Navlakha and Teltumbde of Maoist links and was later taken over by the NIA.
Navlakha on Tuesday hoped for a speedy and fair trial for himself and other co-accused in the case. In an open letter published on Monday, Teltumbde wrote: “An individual like me obviously cannot counter the spirited propaganda of the government and its subservient media.” He added that the details of the case are “strewn across the internet” and are enough for any person to know that it is a “clumsy and criminal fabrication”.
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Last year, a Pune sessions court had rejected the anticipatory bail pleas of Navlakha and Teltumbde. The court also denied them a three-day interim protection, paving the way for their arrest in the case. After that, they moved the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.
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 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.