The Elgar Parishad case, in which several activists have been accused of making speeches that led to violence in Bhima Koregaon near Pune in 2018, drags on. Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde, lawyer-activist Sudha Bhardwaj and poet Varavara Rao have got bail, but only after spending years in prison. But others, such as Vernon Gonsalves, continue to languish behind bars.
Eighty-four-year-old Jharkhand-based tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy, meanwhile, died in custody on July 5, 2021. What does this case tell us about human rights in India and about the effectiveness – or lack of it – of the judiciary?
Susan Abraham – a lawyer who’s been at the forefront of the legal battle, human right activist and wife of Vernon Gonsalves – speaks to All Indians Matter.
The UAPA Law – Curbing Terrorism or Stifling Dissent?
By Hindus for Human Rights
(DESH-VIDESH CONVERSATION SERIES – SPEAKING ACROSS THE DIVIDE) Digital Evidence Planting: New Age Threat to Rights Defenders
Presented by Safa Ahmed of the Indian American Muslim Council on behalf of a broad coalition working to secure the release of all the Bhima Koregaon prisoners
WHY ARE MOST OF THE BHIMA KOREGAON DEFENDANTS STILL IN JAIL DESPITE FORENSIC FINDINGS THAT INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE HAD BEEN PLANTED ON SOME OF THEIR COMPUTERS?
Good evening. Digital forensics is a dry, technical field, but the consequences of digital attacks play out like a vivid, terrifying, and painful movie. With the help of technical experts, journalists, and activists, I have prepared for you this narrative of what was revealed in the forensic analysis of the hard drives of three of the BK-16 – Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, and Father Stan Swamy. Read more
Invite: India’s UAPA law: Curbing Terrorism or Stifling Democratic Dissent?
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and India’s Prisoners of Conscience (POCs): Targeting terrorism or stifling democratic dissent?
Saturday, January 21, 2023
6 pm PST,
7:30 am IST
The conversation will cover the history and the draconian provisions of the UAPA; how it compares to anti-terror laws in other democracies; the views of the State Department and USCIRF; what are some of the typical charges being made being under UAPA. Do they look unlawful to you? Some statistics: How many people arrested since the amended UAPA; Average time spent w/o trial or bail hearing; How many have gone to trial, etc.
Moderator: Govind Acharya, Amnesty International
Banojyotsna Lahiri, Activist, on Umar Khalid’s story and struggle
Yug Mohit Chaudhry, Author and Criminal Lawyer, on legal strategies on behalf of POCs and hurdles faced
Mihir Desai, Human Rights Lawyer, on the story and struggle of Bhima Koregaon 16 and what’s happening to lesser known detainees
Followed by a Q&A moderated by Govind Acharya Register here
Why Courts Are Ignoring Concerns Of Planted Evidence In The Bhima-Koregaon Prosecution
Independent forensic experts have raised concerns of evidence being planted in the ongoing Bhima-Koregaon prosecution (ongoing for 45 months, with not even charges framed yet). But India’s tightly regulated criminal process severely restricts the right of accused persons to introduce new material. It speaks to many important concerns for the state, such as speedy trial, but a general rule that brooks no exception does more harm than good.
It has been almost 45 months since the police began investigating the theory of a larger conspiracy in the cases emanating out of the Bhima-Koregaon violence of January 2018. Read more
How proper file, malware, and memory forensics techniques were able to catch the ModifiedElephant threat actor planting incriminating evidence on defendants’ computers in India.
I agreed in late 2022 to independently review a new digital forensics report from Arsenal Consulting (hereafter: Arsenal), which was still under embargo. Niha Masih, an award-winning reporter with The Washington Post, reached out to me in early December and explained that she had written a series of articles (based on Arsenal reports) about Indian activists in the “Bhima Koregaon” case who were hacked and had evidence planted on their devices before their arrests. Niha asked if I would be able to validate Arsenal’s work. Read more
Electronic records relied on during probe dubious, says Gonsalves in discharge plea
The Indian Express / by Express News Service
Referring to multiple reports by US-based forensic consulting firm Arsenal Consulting, which said that malware was planted on the electronic devices of his co-accused, Gonsalves has said the main evidence in the case is ‘unworthy of credit’.
Vernon Gonsalves, an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case, filed his discharge application before the special court on Wednesday, stating that electronic records relied on by the investigators are dubious. Read more
Vernon Gonsalves cites Arsenal report to seek discharge
Free Press Journal / by Bhavna Uchil
Accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case, Vernon Gonsalves has sought a clean chit and cited the US forensics firm Arsenal Consulting’s report showing that incriminating evidence was planted on devices of the accused.
Accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case, Vernon Gonsalves has sought a clean chit and cited the US forensics firm Arsenal Consulting’s report showing that incriminating evidence was planted on devices of the accused. The electronic evidence forms the foundation of the prosecution’s case. He has claimed that it’s dubious and has called into question the whole basis of the case. Read more
Activist Vernon Gonsalves files for discharge
Hindustan Times / by Charul Shah
The activist has raised questions on the sanction given by the competent authorities to invoke charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In the discharge plea, he has claimed that the sanctioning authority has to be independent and needs to evaluate evidence before granting sanction
Human rights activist Vernon Gonsalves has filed a plea before the special NIA court seeking discharge from the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon violence case, claiming that there was no evidence to proceed against him. Gonsalves, arrested in August 2018, is currently lodged in Taloja jail. Read more
Despite directions given by the special court to NIA to provide all the evidence, only 40% has been shared, says advocate for some of the accused in the case.
It is almost five years since caste-based violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon in Pune but more than 60% of ‘clone copies’ of the evidence against the 15 accused, who are activists, lawyers, journalists, and professors, have not been shared with them. Read more
Stan had, during interrogation, claimed that the evidence against him was ‘interpolated’, as he wrote in his book I Am Not A Silent Spectator; but NIA did not believe him. Now a forensic firm has confirmed it.
Late Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy wrote a slim book, I Am Not A Silent Spectator, before he was arrested on October 8, 2020. In the book, Stan details the questions sleuths from the National Investigation Agency asked him over 15 hours of interrogation spread over five days—and the answers he gave. He scoffed at the documents they said had been extracted from his computer, insisting these were “interpolations”. Read more
The death of Fr. Stan Swamy was finalised the day he was arrested: Senior Advocate Mihir Desai
Sabrang / by Sabrangindia
A Press Conference discussing the recent Arsenal report, and the tampering of evidence in Late Fr. Stan Swamy’s Case
A press conference was organised by the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh in Mumbai on December 22, 2022. The aim of this press conference was to discuss the issue of reports recently released suggesting fabrication of evidence on the computer of Father Stan Swamy. The speakers at this conference were Fr. Joe Xavier, Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Senior Advocate Mihir Desai and Former Professor Nagarjuna G. There were almost 30-40 journalists present in the audience. Read more
‘Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy’
Rediff.com / by Neeta Kolhatkar
The State has played with their lives.’
‘Arsenal proved the machines were hacked and false evidence implanted with false files and letters.’
An independent organisation, ‘Mumbai Rises To Save Democracy’, called upon the public and media to raise their voices against the authoritarian State.
This call comes after the United States-based digital forensics firm Arsenal Consulting revealed that several incriminating documents were planted on the computers of the late Father Stan Swamy, Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling, accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Read more
‘Fr Stan Swamy did not even access plants on his computer’
Hindustan Times / by Gautam S Mengle
Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate at High Court of Bombay, Fr. Joe Xavier, Convenor of Fr. Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits, Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Former Principal of St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai along with Nagarjuna G., Former Professor of Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, during the press conference on “Fabricating Evidence Against Life & Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case, at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh (MMPS), near Azad Maidan, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, December 22, 2022. Read more
Stan Swamy didn’t access files used against him, evidence fabricated: US-based forensics firm
India Today / by Mustafa Shaikh
Evidence against Late Father Stan Swamy in the Bhima Koregaon case was planted and fabricated, US-based digital forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, stated in a report.
Evidence against Late Father Stan Swamy in the Bhima Koregaon case was planted and fabricated. His computer was compromised by the same attacker who hacked the computers of co-accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling, US-based digital forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, stated in a report.
Swamy’s lawyer and friends revealed details of the report and their further course of action on Thursday. Read more
‘Stan Swamy was jailed as he used law to help adivasis’
Times of India / by TNN
Why did Fr Stan Swamy, an 80-year-old Jesuit and tribal rights activist, find himself in the crosshairs of the investigating agencies? At a news meet on Thursday, a panel comprising close associates claimed it was because Swamy had used the legal system to help tribals, whose lands were illegally grabbed. “Stan worked for justice and paid the price for it,” said Fr. Joe Xavier, ex-executive director of Indian Social Institute. Read more
Activists Call for Release of Accused in Elgar Parishad Case, Probe into ‘Fabrication’ of Evidence
The Wire / by The Wire Staff
There is a fresh demand for an impartial probe from activists in the wake of a recent report by a US-based digital forensics firm stating that ‘incriminating evidence’ was ‘planted’ on the laptop of activist Stan Swamy, an accused in the case.
Human rights activists, lawyers and academicians on Thursday, December 22, called for the release of the accused persons in the Elgar Parishad case and an impartial probe into the allegations of tampering of electronic devices and fabrication of evidence of all those accused in the case. Read more
Fight to clear Fr Stan Swamy’s name ‘will continue’
UCA News / by UCA News reporter
A recent report by US digital forensics firm reveals how the late Jesuit priest was implicated by planted false evidence
Friends and colleagues of a dead Jesuit Indian priest have pledged to continue the fight “to clear his name from the false cases” that led to his arrest, imprisonment and death in custody.
Father Stan Swamy, the 84-year-old priest and indigenous rights activist died on July 5, 2021, after being denied timely medical treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other age-related ailments. Read more
NIA may be suppressing probe findings: Stan Swamy’s lawyer Mihir Desai
Midday.com / by Nascimento Pinto
The participants called for the release of the remaining co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, along with an independent impartial investigation into the tampering of electronic devices and fabrication of evidence of all those accused in the case.
Almost a week after American digital forensics firm ‘Arsenal Consulting’ revealed in a detailed report that tribal rights activist Father Stanislaus Lourdes Swamy’s computer was tampered with and ‘evidence’ was planted on it, human rights activists, lawyers and academicians vowed to secure justice for the late Ranchi-based priest and those accused of terror links in Bhima-Koregaon case. Read more
Video: Press Conference by Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy (MRSD)
In wake of the recent Arsenal report which exposes the malicious tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer, MRSD* organized a press conference on “Fabricating Evidence Against Life and Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case”
Legal experts say that this information becomes useful during the stage of the trial, which is yet to start.
A new report that says that “evidence” on Stan Swamy’s computer was planted would not be of much use to the accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon case until the trial starts, legal experts point out. Read more
In wake of the recent Arsenal report which exposes the malicious tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer, MRSD* organized a press conference on “Fabricating Evidence Against Life and Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case” on December 22, 2022.
Speakers: Fr. Joe Xavier, Convenor of Fr. Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits and Former Executive Director of the Indian Social Institute. Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Former principal of St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and the Parish Priest of St Peter’s Church. Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate at High Court of Bombay. Nagarjuna G., Former Professor, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
*MRSD is a forum constituted by several democratic rights, civil society and people’s organisations to campaign for the release of human rights defenders falsely charged and imprisoned in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, the repeal of UAPA and for upholding the citizens’ right to dissent.
Fabricating Evidence Against Life and Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case
The latest report released by Arsenal Consulting, a Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm- proves that Father Stan’s computer was infiltrated by hackers since October 19th 2014, and more than 40 documents were planted in it. In his last video statement before his arrest, Stan had asserted that documents shown to him by the NIA were fabricated. Inspite of the same he was arrested on 8th October 2020 and subsequently died on 5th July 2021 in custody. Stan’s case represents not just grave injustice to the 84-year-old, but also the deep denigration of basic humanity by the system.
Fr. Stan was incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon (BK) conspiracy case which has come to represent a major conspiracy against human rights defenders in India. Including Stan, 16 activists, lawyers, academicians have been arrested since 2018 in the case filed by the Pune police (later on transferred to NIA) following caste violence that broke out against Dalit visitors on January 1, 2018, in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune. Ironically, the police invoked UAPA, a law that Stan vehemently resisted, to arrest the BK-16 activists, and brand them as anti-nationals, urban naxals and members of a banned political party and even alleged involvement in a purported assassination plan on the Prime minister. The long list of allegations in the case is meant to arouse the deepest suspicion against these 16 accused, and against their work of defending democracy and people’s struggles.
Fr. Stan worked tirelessly especially for Adivasis in Jharkhand, their rights to land, forest, and against their false incarceration. Apart from being an activist, he also documented many instances of injustices in an impeccable manner. He also raised objections to instances of illegal mining and other supposed development projects which had the impact of displacing people from their home and hearths.
Fr. Stan’s arrest in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, despite his ill-health and age, is a proof of the system’s apathy to human rights defenders. During his last months in prison, he repeatedly requested to be shifted to his residence in Ranchi. A patient of the Parkinson’s disease, Stan faced multiple challenges during his incarceration. Inspite of having contracted Covid and taking seriously ill, he was denied timely medical treatment and care in prison. However, no cognizance of this was taken, and the situation deteriorated resulting in the death of Fr. Stan, even while his application for bail was pending. His untimely and tragic death is a result of the sheer negligence of the jail authorities, NIA and failure of the entire criminal justice system to protect a defender of justice. Such denial of rights becomes even more stark with emerging documentary proof that the evidence presented in the case were fabricated. It must be noted that in April 2021, Arsenal consulting had already released a report proving the malicious hacking and planting of documents in computers of co-accused, Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling.
The fact that Fr. Stan died before he could get a chance to prove his innocence is jarring. This case shows the extent to which illegal cyber-attacks are being used in Digital India to build false criminal cases against innocent citizens who can then be jailed indefinitely under the UAPA law. Such is the desperation of the system to incarcerate human rights defenders and dehumanize the society at large. At the same time, the real instigators of violence at Bhima Koregaon, Milind Ekbote of Samastha Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Chhatrapati Pratishan are not being prosecuted and are instead being shielded politically.
We call for: 1. Immediate release of all remaining co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case and quashing of the case against them on the basis of fabricated evidence. 2. Reparations and justice for the wrongful incarceration of Fr. Stan Swamy that resulted in his death. 3. Impartial and independent investigation into the tampering of electronic devices and fabrication of evidence against the BK-16 accused in the case. 4. Impartial and independent investigation into the role of Milind Ekbote, Sambhaji Bhide and other right-wing leaders and outfits for planning and inciting violence on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon and their prosecution in the FIRs filed against them. 5. Repeal of draconian UAPA law used as a tool to curb dissent and political opposition.
*Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy: MRSD is a forum constituted by more than 20 democratic rights, civil society and people’s organisations to campaign for the release of those arrested in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, repeal of UAPA and for upholding the citizens’ right to dissent.