Mumbai: Ten accused in the Elgaar Parishad-Maoist links case went on a one-day hunger strike in the Taloja jail in neighbouring Navi Mumbai on Wednesday to protest against what they termed as an “institutional murder” of co-accused Jesuit priest Stan Swamy. They also demanded action against officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is conducting a probe into the Elgar Parishad case, and former superintendent of the Taloja jail.
All 10 Bhima Koregaon accused lodged at the Taloja Central Jail will go on a day-long hunger strike on July 7 to protest against the “institutional murder” of Father Stan Swamy. The 84-year-old tribal activist, who was repeatedly denied bail despite his deteriorating health, died at a Mumbai hospital on Monday.
The decision was taken by Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe, according to family members whom they spoke to from the prison.
Though they are all lodged in different barracks, they met each other on Tuesday and they shared their memories about Father Swamy. They also maintained two minutes of silence for him. The new superintendent of Taloja prison is believed to have joined them, according to family members.
In a statement released by the accused, they said that Father Swamy’s death was a very well thought out conspiracy and blame the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the former superintendent of Taloja prison, Kaustubh Kurlekar, for his death.
Swamy, 84, was arrested by the NIA from Ranchi in October 2020 under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and lodged at the Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai. Also Read – Parts of North India reel under heat wave conditions He suffered a cardiac arrest and died at a Mumbai hospital on Monday in the middle of his fight for bail on health grounds.
The Elgaar Parishad case is related to inflammatory speeches made at a conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, which, the police claimed, triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the outskirts of the western Maharashtra city. The police had claimed the conclave was organised by people with alleged Maoist links. The other accused in the case termed Swamy’s death an “institutional murder” and held the “negligent jails, indifferent courts and malicious investigating agencies” responsible for it. Also Read – US vaccine donation: Regulatory issues holding up supplies to India As a mark of protest, 10 of the co-accused in the case – Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Ramesh Gaichor and Sagar Gorkhe – went on a one-day fast in the Taloja jail on Wednesday.
They informed about the protest to their family members, who released a statement saying all Elgar case prisoners have blamed the NIA and the Taloja jail’s former superintendent Kaustubh Kurlekar for the death of Father Stan Swamy.
They believe that “the separation of Stan Swamy from them is a deliberate institutional murder,” the release said. The statement alleged that the NIA and Kurlekar never missed a single opportunity to “harass” Stan Swamy, whether it was the “ghastly treatment” inside the jail, the haste to transfer him back from hospital to jail or even protesting against trivial things like a sipper (which Swamy required due to his medical conditions).
“It is these that have caused the death of Stan Swamy and therefore, for this institutional murder, NIA officials and Kurlekar should be tried under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code,” the statement added.
The accused said they will submit their demands to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray through the Taloja Jail administration.
The accused are lodged in different barracks of the jail but met on Tuesday to share their memories about Swamy. They also observed a two-minute silence for him. Their family members said that the new superintendent of Taloja prison also joined them, reported The Hindu.
Several politicians, activists and human rights organisations have blamed the Modi government for Swamy’s death. The family and friends of the 16 arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case also called the tribal rights activist’s death an “institutional murder”.