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Sunday, February 25, 2024
HomeEditorialElgaar Parishad is still in the news for many reasons

Elgaar Parishad is still in the news for many reasons

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elgar parishad, elgaar, bhima koregaon, bhima, elgar parishad activists

Many activists were accused and arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case. The initial investigation focused on the people and groups who had organized the Elgaar Parishad. Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani and former JNU student Umar Khalid were among those who had participated in Elgaar Parishad and made speeches. Jignesh Mevani got bail as soon as he was arrested but Umar Khalid had to remain there for years and now, he is free. Pune police claimed that while carrying out the investigation; it had stumbled upon material that provided clues about the operations of a larger underground network of banned Naxalite groups.

Varavara Rao is an accused in the Elgar Parishad case of 2018 and has been behind bars since then. He was granted bail in 2021. One of the bail conditions was that he should not leave the jurisdiction of the Mumbai court where the trial would be held. Court has now issued a notice to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a plea filed by Telugu poet Varavara Rao seeking permission to get his cataract surgery done in Hyderabad.

In June 2018, the Pune police arrested five activists and lawyers from Pune, Nagpur and Delhi, claiming that these activists allegedly had links with the banned Naxalite organization, CPI (Maoist) and had played a role in organizing the Elgaar Parishad. Later that year, in August, the Pune Pune police carried out simultaneous at the houses of eight prominent activists in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa and Ranchi. Its bid to arrest the activists was foiled by judicial intervention, but three months later, it managed to arrest four of them, including Chhattisgarh-based Sudha Bhardwaj, and Hyderabad-based Varavara Rao. They have been in jail ever since. The others, Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based academic and professor, and Delhi-based Gautam Navalakha have managed to obtain judicial reprieve against their arrests.

In the courts, the Pune police have claimed that the arrested activists had active links to the CPI(Maoist), which destabilised the country and worked against national security. It had even claimed that the arrested people were associated with a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi but no such claims could be proven by agencies or cops.

The Elgaar Parishad was an event held on 31 December 2017 to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima. It was organised by a coalition of 260 non-profit organisations at Pune’s Shaniwarwada Fort and had approximately 35,000 people in attendance. The program consisted of a number of cultural performances, speeches and slogans. On 1 January 2018, violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon, where lakhs of Dalits had converged to commemorate the battle. One person was killed, and three others were injured.

In the months following the event, a number of people present at the event were arrested under laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). This included Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Shoma Sen. However, Justices BG Kolse-Patil and PB Sawant refuted their claims. The Justices said that the two of them were the main organisers and sole funders of the event and that they had held a similar event against communalism and Hindutva in October 2015 at the same venue. Every year on the first day of January, thousands of people belonging to the Dalit community (Mostly Mahars) gather near the ‘victory pillar’ in Koregaon to celebrate an event that took place 2 centuries back.

Dalit groups observe this day as a victory over the forces of the upper caste Peshwas. This year the event turned into a violent episode, as the Dalits and Upper casts rightists clashed very badly. However, according to various think tanks and prominent personalities, Elgaar Parishad has no connection with Naxalites. Prakash Ambedkar has also stated that the objective of Elgaar Parishad was to bridge the growing divide between Marathas versus OBC and SC/STs. He finds no reason for linking Elgaar Parishad’s activities with Maoists or Bhima Koregaon violence. Then the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra said it would re-examine the Elgaar Parishad case.

So far, The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has submitted several draft charges against the accused in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) before a special court in Mumbai. The draft states, the accused attempted to “wage war against the governments of India and Maharashtra.” The accused recruited students from various universities, including Jawaharlal Nehru University and Tata Institute of Social Science for the commission of terrorist activity and there, was a specific allegation against Anand Teltumbde that he “knowingly caused evidence to disappear with the intention of screening the offenders from legal punishment. But so far none of these claims are proven against them. Most of them are senior citizens languishing in jail.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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