Three accused in the Bhima Koregaon case – Mahesh Raut, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor – have tested positive for the coronavirus disease, The Hindu reported on Thursday.
An RT-PCR test drive was conducted at Taloja Jail after tribal rights activist and co-accused in the case Stan Swamy tested positive for the infection at a hospital in Mumbai on May 30.
The three who have tested positive, are among the 10 accused in the case, who continue to be lodged in Taloja Jail. They were staying in close proximity to Swamy before he was shifted to the hospital, due to poor health.
Seven other accused in the case have tested negative, the superintendent of Taloja Jail told The Hindu. These include Vernon Gonsalves, Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Arun Ferreira, Anand Teltumbde, Rona Wilson and Gautam Navlakha.
Last month, Delhi University Professor Hany Babu, an undertrial prisoner in the Bhima Koregaon case, too was hospitalised after testing positive for the coronavirus and contracting an eye infection. Babu was also lodged at the Taloja Jail. Last year, poet and activist Varavara Rao had tested positive while he was kept in the same prison.
Concerns about the medical facilities and lack of physical distancing at the Taloja Jail have constantly been raised by family members and lawyers of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
Bhima Koregaon case
Several activists and academicians have been jailed in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. They were 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 on 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 named activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Raut, all of whom were arrested in June 2018. The police claimed that those arrested had “active links” with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and accused the activists of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Centre transferred the case to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020 after the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra was defeated.
Eight people who have been named in the NIA chargesheet for the January 2018 violence are Babu, former Indian Institute of Technology professor Anand Teltumbde, his brother Milind Teltumbde, Navlakha, three members of the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch and Swamy. Milind Teltumbde has been named as an absconding accused and top operative of CPI (Maoist) in the chargesheet.