The Bombay High Court, today reserved its order in Bhima Koregaon Case on the plea by Gautam Navlakha to quash the FIR against him, filed by the Pune Police, accusing him of having links to Naxal groups. The Court has decided to extend the protection from arrest offered to Navlakha until the order is pronounced.
The 1st of January last year marked the 200 year anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon, which was fought between the army of Peshwa Bajirao and the troops of East India Company along with a few leather workers (Dalits) in 1818. The Mahars along with the British troops defeated the numerically superior force of Peshwa Bajirao and a victory pillar was erected to commemorate the fallen soldiers. Ever since Dr, B.R.Ambedkar led the first commemoration ceremony here in 1928, every year on the 1st of January, Dalits gather in this village to celebrate their victory against the oppressive Peshwa regime.
Last year prior to the commemoration, on December 31, several Bahujan and Dalit groups met in the Shanivar Wada, Pune, to combat the rise of communal violence by the Hindutva groups under the banner of cow protection, this seemed to have triggered the violence that took place the next day during a peaceful celebration by the Dalits. Some groups were reported to have entered the scene carrying saffron flags that led to an outbreak of violence, killing a Rahul Fatangale, a 28 year old from Nanded, and injuring many others.
In the following days, several Dalit groups staged protests all over the state. Stone pelting was reported in several parts of Pune and Ahmednagar. On the 6th of June last year, the Pune police arrested five human rights activists, Sudhir Dhawale, a writer and Mumbai-based Dalit rights activist, Surendra Gadling, an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act expert and lawyer from Nagpur, Mahesh Raut, a young activist who works on displacement issues from Gadchiroli, Shoma Sen, a retired university professor and head of the English literature department at Nagpur University, Rona Wilson, a Delhi-based prisoners’ rights activist, alleging ties with naxal groups and inciting riots. These were followed by the arrests of Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Arun Ferreira ,Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves.
Navlakha had to approach the Delhi High Court against his arrest, the matter even reached the Supreme Court which had stayed the arrest order and later extended the same. The Supreme Court had later asked the Bombay High Court to deal with Navlakha’s petition seeking the quashing of FIR filed against him. The High Court on October 27, granted Navlakha, an interim relief from arrest.
Navlakha was accused of having links with Naxal groups. During the hearing in Bhima Koregaon Case , the prosecutor also claimed that Navlakha was linked to the banned organization Hizbul Mujahideen and Kashmiri separatists. Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhary, appearing for Navlakha contented that he was not a part of any Maoist organisation and cannot be implicated in the grave charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.