A special National Investigation Court on Monday denied bail to 83-year-old Jesuit priest and activist Stan Swamy, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, Live Law reported. Additional Sessions Court Judge DE Kothlikar dismissed Swamy’s bail application on merits as well as on medical grounds.
Swamy, who was arrested on October 8, has been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and terror-related offences of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly furthering the cause of banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) through various civil rights organisations he worked with. His application for bail had been pending since November.
His plea was deferred on March 11 after the NIA filed an application to place on record additional documents in the case and Swamy’s lawyer had sought time to respond to them. On March 17, a Mumbai court had reserved its order on the matter.
In his bail plea, Swamy had alleged 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 also said that the tribal rights priest was not connected in any way to the organisation of the Elgar Parishad event held in Pune on December 31, 2017. Swamy’s advocate, Sharif Shaikh, had argued that the NIA had failed to establish Swamy’s connection with the conclave.
The plea further cited Swamy’s poor health, saying he suffered from the Parkinson’s disease and other ailments, including the loss of hearing and injuries on his arm. “He has undergone two hernia operations and is still suffering from abdomen pain,” the plea had said. “He suffers intense pain due to lumbar spondylosis i.e. the tear and wear of the lumbar disc and tremors in both hands due to Parkinson’s. In fact, he has been shifted to the prison hospital and is being taken care of by other inmates.”
On March 1, the Bombay High Court had granted temporary bail for six months to co-accused Varavara Rao, on the grounds that his continued incarceration was incompatible with his health.
The NIA has, however, claimed that it has sufficient evidence to prima facie prove that Swamy was involved in the conspiracy and was directly involved in the Naxalite movement. The central agency claimed there were over 140 email communications between Swamy and co-accused academics Anand Teltumbde, Rona Wilson and others, as a part of a group mail.
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, they include educators Anand Teltumbde, Shoma Sen and Hany Babu, poets Varavara Rao and Sudhir Dhawale, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj and activists Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves.
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. 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.