Explained: What is the status of the Elgaar Parishad case?

Justice P B Sawant.

In the case in which some prominent activists were raided and arrested by Pune police last year, the prosecution lawyer has now claimed before a Pune city court that people like former Supreme Court judge Justice P B Sawant were used by the so-called naxal front organisations to further their objectives.

The argument was made during the hearing of the bail applications of some of those arrested in the case, which is better known as the Elgaar Parishad case. This is the same case in which the prosecution had claimed last year that there was a conspiracy to eliminate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Rajiv Gandhi-like operation. The arrested activists have been in jail for more than six months, some of them almost a year, now.

What is Elgaar Parishad case?

On December 31, 2017, a day ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, an event called Elgaar Parishad was organised in Pune at which several speakers, including Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, had made speeches criticising the BJP-led central government for its apparently anti-Dalit policies. Next day, as lakhs of people, mainly Dalits, marched from Pune to the village of Koregaon Bhima to mark the anniversary of the battle fought 200 years ago, rioting and violence took place, which resulted in the death of one person while several others had sustained injuries.

Pune police has claimed that the speeches made at the Elgaar Parishad were, in part, responsible for inciting violence. An FIR filed by Tushar Damgude had claimed that naxal front organisations like Kabir Kala Manch were involved in the organisation of Elgaar Parishad. It was on the basis of this FIR that Pune police made several raids early last year on organisations in Pune and Mumbai suspected to sympathise with the naxalite groups.

Elgaar Parishad case: The arrests

On June 6 last year, the Pune police arrested Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson, Nagpur-based lawyer Sudhir Gadling, Nagpur University professor Shoma Sen, Mumbai-based activist Sudhir Dhawale, and Mahesh Raut, a former Prime Minister s Rural Development fellow.

Later in the year, on August 28, Pune city police conducted simultaneous raids on the residences of seven prominent activists based in different cities. Five of them were arrested, but the Supreme Court ordered them to be put under house arrest for the time being.

On October 26, Pune police formally arrested Chhattisgarh-based Sudha Bharadwaj, and Mumbai-based Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Pareira. Hyderabad-based P Varavara Rao was arrested on November 17. All these are currently held in judicial custody in the Yerawada jail.

Repeated judicial reprieves has ensured that two others, Gautam Navalakha and Goa-based Anand Teltumbde, have managed to escape arrests till now.

Elgaar Parishad case: The charges

Pune police has claimed that their investigation into the organisation of Elgaar Parishad had led them to larger naxal networks and evidence of bigger conspiracies to destabilise and overthrow democratic governments. They produced some of these evidence in court, mainly communication between some of the arrested activists and some top functionaries of banned naxal organisation, CPI-Maoist. It was on the basis of one of such letters that the police claimed that there was a plan to assassinate Modi.

The police has invoked provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against the arrested people.

The chargesheet filed by Pune police names 22 people, including the former top commander of CPI-Maoist Ganapathy.

Status of Elgaar Parishad case

The city court is currently hearing bail applications filed by some of the arrested activists. In the past, some similar applications have been rejected by the court. The actual trial is still to begin.