The National Investigation Agency has summoned Dalit scholar and activist K Satyanarayana to appear before it for questioning in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case on September 9. Satyanarayana is the son-in-law of Telugu poet-activist Varavara Rao, who is imprisoned in Mumbai’s Taloja Jail after being arrested in the Elgar Parishad cases on August 31, 2018.
Satyanarayana’s brother and senior journalist KV Kumarnath was also summoned to appear on the same day. Both of them have been asked to come to the central agency’s Mumbai office for questioning.
“As you know, my flat was raided by Pune police in August 2018 under the pretext of collecting evidence against my father in law and revolutionary poet Varavara Rao,” Satyanarayana said in a statement. “I stated then that I was in no way connected to the Bhima Koregaon case. The fact of Varavara Rao being my father in law was used to raid my house and cause mental agony.”
The activist reiterated that he has no connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. “[The] NIA notice adds to our family distress at a time when Varavara Rao’s health condition is not very good and the pandemic is fast spreading in Mumbai,” he added. “I am travelling to Mumbai in these terrible times.”
The National Investigation Agency has also asked Partho Sarothi Ray, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, to appear for questioning in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon cases, PTI reported on Sunday. He has been asked to present himself before the investigators in Mumbai on 10 September at 11 am.
Ray denied having any connection with the case and accused the investigative agency of trying to “harass him, as has been the case with other intellectuals” across the country. “The agency has summoned me as a witness in the case, under section 160 CrPC,” he told PTI. “Therefore, there are no charges against me. I have no connection with this case as I have never been to Bhima Koregaon. I wasn’t even aware of the incident till I read about it in the newspapers.”
Several academics, lawyers and activists have been questioned in the case, and the NIA has arrested 12 people so far. The latest arrest was of Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu, who was held on July 28. Several rights organisations have criticised the government’s actions as stifling dissent and have called it an attempt to criminalise and silence intellectuals in India.
Apart from Babu, activists Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case. They have been charged under the anti-terrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, facing charges of participating in a Maoist conspiracy to overthrow the government and assassinate the prime minister.
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, 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.