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NIA charge-sheets 8 accused in Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case

Mumbai: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed a charge-sheet against eight people, including activists Gautam Navlakha and 82-year-old Father Stan Swamy, for their alleged involvement in inciting a mob to violence in Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018, officials said.

Swamy, who said he has never been to Bhima Koregaon, was arrested from his home in Ranchi on Thursday evening and brought to Mumbai where he was produced before a court on Friday and remanded to judicial custody till October 23. He is possibly the oldest person to be charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), officials said.

Swamy is a Jesuit priest and a tribal rights activist based in Jharkhand. He has worked in the state for over three decades on various issues of the Adivasi communities on land, forest and labour rights. This includes questioning the non-implementation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which stipulated setting up of a Tribes Advisory Council with members solely of the Adivasi community for their protection, well-being and development in the state.

In a statement given two days before the NIA took him into custody, Swamy said that he had challenged the "indiscriminate" arrest of thousands of young Adivasis and Moolvasis with investigating agencies labeling them as "Naxals".

Barring one person Milind Teltumde who is absconding all others named in the charge-sheet for allegedly conspiring against the government are in judicial custody.

NIA spokesperson and Deputy Inspector General of Police in the agency Sonia Narang said the charge-sheet was submitted before a designated court here.

Besides Navlakha and Swamy, the others named in the charge-sheet are Delhi University associate professor Hany Babu, Goa Institute of Management professor Anand Teltumbde, and Jyoti Jagtap, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, activists of the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyaan group.

They were arrested during the course of the investigation into the violence on January 1, 2018 in which one person was killed and several injured after clashes at the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Koregaon near Pune.

Navlakha and Teltumbde had surrendered before the NIA in April this year.

The NIA charge-sheet against the eight does not mention human rights activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who has been in jail since 2018. She was arrested by Pune Police in the case along with Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in August 2018.

Swamy's lawyer Sharif Shaikh said his client was produced physically before the court. "The NIA did not seek his custody. He is aged. We will peruse the papers and file for a bail," he said.

The cleric is the sixteenth person to be arrested in the case, in which people have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the anti-terror law UAPA. With agency inputs

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