The bail plea of activist and Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, arrested in the Elgar Parishad case, was deferred by a special court in Mumbai on Thursday, reported PTI.

The court, which was likely to pass the order on Thursday, deferred it after the National Investigation Agency filed some additional documents in the case and Swamy’s lawyer sought time to respond to them. The matter will now be heard on March 15, reported The Indian Express.

Swamy was arrested on October 8 by the central agency from Ranchi, Jharkhand, and brought to Mumbai the next day. He was sent to judicial custody till October 23.

In his bail plea, Swamy had claimed that he was being targeted by the central agency because of his writings and work related to caste and land struggles of the people of India and violation of democratic rights of the marginalised citizens of the country.

The bail plea had also said that the 83-year-old Jesuit priest was not connected in any way to the organisation of the Elgar Parishad event held in Pune on December 31, 2017.

The NIA has, however, claimed that it has sufficient evidence to prima facie prove that the accused was involved in the conspiracy and was directly involved in the Naxalite movement.

In a related development, the court allowed the exemption plea of activist Varavara Rao, who was granted interim bail for six months on medical grounds by the Bombay High Court on February 22. Rao had filed an application for exemption from personal appearance as it was permitted in the High Court order granting him temporary bail.

Elgar Parishad case

The first Elgar Parishad was held in Pune’s Shaniwar Wada on December 31, 2017, a day before lakhs of Dalits from across India gathered at the village of Koregaon Bhima to commemorate the 200th anniversary of a battle in which a Dalit contingent of the British army defeated the region’s Peshwa Brahmins.

Since June 2018, many activists and intellectuals have been arrested and denied bail for allegedly provoking the Bhima Koregaon violence, operating as “urban Naxals” with Maoist connections and carrying out “anti-national” activities. Besides Swamy and Rao, they include educators Anand Teltumbde, Shoma Sen and Hany Babu, poet Sudhir Dhawale, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj and activists Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves.

In February, the Pune Police booked former Aligarh Muslim University student leader Sharjeel Usmani for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups during his speech at the Elgar Parishad 2021 conclave on January 30.

The authorities claim they were associated with organising the first Elgar Parishad, though most of them have denied this.

Meanwhile, Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote – also accused of instigating the 2018 violence – have not been arrested.

The second Elgar Parishad on January 30 was organised as a tribute to the arrested activists as well as a reiteration of their anti-caste, anti-Hindutva ideologies. The date of the event marked the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the birthday of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student of Hyderabad Central University whose death by suicide in 2016 had triggered a nationwide movement against casteism in educational institutions.