Bhima Koregaon Case
Who Are the BK16?
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)
Timeline of Bhima-Koregaon Cases and Status in Court
- December 28, 2017: Desecration of shrine at Vudhu Budhruk village near Bhima-Koregaon which commemorates Govind Gaikwad, a Dalit (Mahar) icon. FIR filed against the desecrators (groups linked to the RSS and Hindutva movement. which included a named individual, Milind Eknote a well-known Hindutva leader).
- December 29, 2017: Call for a bandh against Dalits by same groups and individuals
- December 31, 2017: Elgaar Parishad held in Pune
- January 1, 2018: Tens of thousands of Dalits visit Bhima-Koregaon to mark 200th anniversary of memorial to Mahar soldiers. Some clashes between Hindutva groups and some Dalits occur in which 1 person was killed. Subsequently, large protests by Dalits in Mumbai. Police crackdown and arrests of many Dalits. No arrest of any named Hindutva individual.
- June 8, 2018: Pune police arrest Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen & Mahesh Raut under the Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Act or UAPA for their alleged participation in the Elgaar Parishad, alleged activities linked to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and an alleged assassination plot against the Prime Minister. Under the UAPA, police have 90 days to file a chargesheet.
- September 2, 2018: 2 days before the deadline of 90 days was to expire, a special court in Pune granted an extension of another 90 days to the Pune police
- October 24, 2018: Bombay High Court quashes the Pune special court order
- October 29, 2018: Supreme Court Stays Bombay High Court order
- November 15, 2018: Chargesheet filed (5000+ pages)
- August 28, 2018: Raids by Maharashtra police on homes of Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao and attempt to arrest them under the Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Act or UAPA under which police have 90 days to file a chargesheet. The homes of two others—Anand Teltumbde and Stan Swamy—were also raided.
- August 29, 2018: Five eminent persons (historian Romila Thapar, economist and Padma Bhushan awardee Devaki Jain, sociologist Satish Deshpande, economist Prabhat Pattnaik, and barrister and executive director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Maja Daruwala) filed a petition in the Supreme Court complaining about the highhanded action of the Maharashtra Police in raiding the homes and arresting five well known human rights activists, journalists, advocates and political worker, with a view to kill independent voices differing in ideology from the party in power and to stifle the honest voice of dissent. They complain that the five activists, namely, Gautam Navalakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves were arrested on 28th August, 2018 from their without any credible material and evidence against them justifying their arrest…This action was to silence the dissent, stop people from helping the poor and downtrodden and to instill fear in the minds of people and was a motivated action to deflect people’s attention from real issues. The petitioners have made it clear in their petition that they were seriously concerned about the erosion of democratic values and were approaching this Court “not to stop investigation into allegations” “but” to ensure independent and credible “investigation into the arrest of stated five human rights activists.” They claim that anything short of that relief will damage the fabric of the nation irreparably [Link]
- August 29: Supreme Court—unsatisfied with the merits of the case – orders that all of five to be only placed under house arrest until September 6. It then extends house arrest until September 12, and then again until September 17 and 19.
- September 28, 2018: Supreme Court (by a 2:1 vote) refuses to interfere with arrests and does not comprise a Special Investigation Team. Extends house arrest for four more weeks. Dissenting opinion by Justice Chandrachud: “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy. If dissent is not allowed, then the pressure cooker will burst.”
- October 27, 2018: Pune police put Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves in police custody; Maharashtra police take Sudha Bharadwaj into police custody; Navlakha gets reprieve until November 1 as per Bombay High Court
- November 17, 2018: Varavara Rao taken into judicial custody
- November 23, 2018: Pune police seek extension of another 90 days to file supplementary chargesheet against five arrestees
- December 3, 2018: Supreme Court directs Maharashtra government to show chargesheet
- December 15, 2018: Bombay high court extended relief from arrest to Navlakha until January 16, 2019, and to Teltumbde until December 17, 2018. Stan Swamy’s petition rejected. The three had filed a petition to quash an FIR filed by Pune police naming them.
- February 21, 2019: Supplementary charge sheet is filed against those arrested in August, specifically against IAPL, the organization Gonsalves, Ferreira, and Bharadwaj were associated with, who had successfully defended individuals against accusations of being linked to the Maoists.
- December–January 2020: After a new government comes to power in Maharashtra, key leader of the new coalition, Sharad Pawar, calls for the case to be handed over to a Special Investigation Team. The Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh calls for a meeting on reinvestigation of the case on January 23.
- January 24, 2020: One day after the meeting to consider reinvestigating the case, without offering any reason, the case is transferred to the National Investigation Agency, which is an agency of the Central government. This sudden shift can be seen as a naked attempt to maintain control over the case and prevent it from being exposed.
- April 14, 2020: The NIA continues its spate of arrests. In spite of pleas regarding the risk to their health from the global pandemic, the Supreme Court dismisses the interim relief from arrest granted to Prof. Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha. They surrender to the NIA on April 14.
- July 28, 2020: Prof. Hany Babu, the convenor of the defense committee for another of the BK-16, Prof. G. N. Saibaba, is also arrested in another attempt to disrupt the civil society defense of the accused.
- September 8, 2020: Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor, and Jyoti Jagtap, artist-activists who work to spread an anti-caste, pro-democracy message, are arrested by the NIA. Shortly after, they release a video statement alleging that the NIA tried to get Gorkhe and Gaichor to be witnesses in the Bhima-Koregaon case, and pressured them to falsely admit to visiting Maoist leaders in a jungle in Gadchiroli in order to fit their trumped-up narrative of the BK-16 being Maoists.
- October 8, 2020: 83-year-old Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who has worked for tribal rights over several decades, is arrested from Ranchi.
- October 10, 2020: A supplementary charge sheet is filed against the newly accused. Among the charges is mentioned the civil society efforts of Prof. Hany Babu to get Prof. G. N. Saibaba released.
- November 2020–January 2021: Numerous bail applications are rejected for all the accused. Even significant humanitarian grounds of ill health are not considered sufficient. There is international outrage over the failure to provide Fr. Stan Swamy, who suffers from Parkinson’s, slippers and a cup and a straw to drink water from.
- February 8, 2021: Arsenal Consulting from Boston, USA, releases its forensic report proving that documents were wrongfully inserted into the hard drive of Rona Wilson using malware. The American Bar Association comes out against the wrongful arrests of the BK-16.
- February 10, 2021: The story of the forensic investigation breaks in the Washington Post. Rona Wilson‘s lawyers file a case based on the report asking the court to quash the charges and appoint a Special Investigative Team to look into the matter of planting of false evidence.
- February 22, 2021: Varavara Rao is finally granted bail in a minor and temporary victory for human rights against state persecution.