Poet and activist Varavara Rao, who is an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, was on Saturday released from a hospital, reported NDTV. The Bombay High Court had on February 22 granted the 81-year-old activist bail on medical grounds for a period of six months.
He was undergoing treatment at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital where he was admitted by the Maharashtra government following the High Court’s intervention. Rao’s lawyer Indira Jaising posted a photo of the activist, saying he was “free at last”.
Rao was granted bail on the condition that he has to stay within the jurisdiction of the Special National Investigation Agency Court. The court also asked the activist to mark his presence with the nearest police station through video call on messaging platform WhatsApp. Besides, Rao has been directed not to issue any statements or speak to the media.
The activist was shifted to Nanavati Hospital, after the High Court on November 18 observed that he was “almost on his deathbed”. Since then, the court extended his stay in the hospital on December 15, December 21 and then on January 7. The National Investigation Agency has, however, maintained that he was fit to be shifted back to Taloja Jail, where he was lodged before being hospitalised.
Rao was arrested in 2018 along with several other activists and booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The octogenarian suffers from multiple ailments.
The Bhima Koregaon case
Several activists and academics have been accused of making inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the authorities claim triggered the violence at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial the next day. One person was killed and several others were injured in the incident.
The first chargesheet was filed by the Pune Police in November 2018, which ran to over 5,000 pages. It had named activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018. The police had claimed that those arrested had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A supplementary chargesheet was filed later in February 2019, against human rights activists Sudha Bharadwaj, Rao, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and banned Communist Party of India (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 transferred the case to the NIA in January 2020 after the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, led by Devendra Fadnavis, was defeated.
Eight people who have been named in the NIA chargesheet for the January 2018 violence are former IIT professor Anand Teltumbde, his brother Milind Teltumbde, activist-journalist Gautam Navlakha, Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu, three members of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch and Stan Swamy. Of them, Milind Teltumbde has been named as an absconding accused and top operative of CPI (Maoist) in the chargesheet.