Mumbai: Ten accused in the Elgar 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.
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.
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 Elgar 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 organized 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.
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 said, while demanding a judicial inquiry into his death.
The statement said the family members of the accused will submit these demands to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray through the Taloja jail administration.
It also said that though these accused were lodged in different barracks, they met on Tuesday and shared their memories of Father Stan Swamy, and also observed a two-minute silence as a mark of tribute to him.
Three women accused in the case- Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen and Jyoti Jagtap – are currently lodged at the Byculla prison in Mumbai.