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Treatment of Pre-Trial Political Prisoners - Bhima Koregaon Case

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June 10, 2021

What is the issue?

  • June 6, 2021 marks the third anniversary of the incarceration of five rights activists in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case.
  • Here is a look at the case and the larger issue behind.

What is the Bhima Koregaon case?

  • January 1, 2018 was the 200th anniversary of a battle fought at Bhima Koregaon, a small village in Pune.
  • [It was where 500 Dalit Mahar soldiers of the British army defeated an army of the Peshwas.]
  • Dalits converged in thousands from across the state for its commemoration.
  • But violence broke out and one person died.
  • Initially, the police investigated Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for instigating the violence, and arrested Ekbote briefly.
  • But some months later, the police claimed that the violence was a conspiracy by left activists and intellectuals.
  • Five rights activists were arrested in this conspiracy case and eleven more were subsequently jailed for the same.
  • These 16 women and men - the BK-16 accused - are intellectuals, lawyers, a poet, professors, cultural and rights activists.
  • It includes an 84-year-old Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy.
  • All these persons have sterling records of service with India’s most oppressed people.

Why is the case contentious?

  • The charge against BK-16 was that they had conspired to instigate Dalits into violent insurrection, and to assassinate the Prime Minister.
  • 3 years later, the trial against them has still not commenced.
  • The state has succeeded in misusing the law with the complicity of all institutions of criminal justice.
  • It worked to confine behind bars the BK-16 accused, without any opportunity for either bail or to prove their innocence.
  • [After a tortuous court battle, just one of them, poet Varavara Rao, was granted bail because of his critically deteriorating health.]
  • The evidence marshalled against the accused rests on some alleged emails.
  • But independent agencies contest that these are malign insertions through malware.
  • The case reveals the ease with which it is possible for the executive to undermine reputations of activists.
  • It has imprisoned indefinitely without bail or trial, people who dissent and organise struggles against state policies.
  • Many among the BK-16 are suffering from various kinds of illnesses.
  • They are now housed in the overcrowded Taloja and Byculla jails, ideal sites for super-spreading the Covid virus.
  • Above all, it is the agenda of the state to ensure that political prisoners are kept well.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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