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.
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
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
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
Incriminating document found in Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer ‘planted’; similar tampering found in other Bhima Koregaon accused: Reports American forensic firm
The Leaflet / by Gursimran Kaur Kakshi
Previously, similar evidence of planting have also been found by the same firm, Arsenal, in the computer of mobile devices of Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling, two other accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
ON December 11, Arsenal Consulting, a United States-based digital forensic analysis firm, revealed that tribal rights activist and one of the accused in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case, the late Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer was compromised over the course of three distinct campaigns, beginning on October 19, 2014, and ending with the seizure of his computer by the Pune police department on June 12, 2019. Read more
Hackers planted evidence on computer of jailed Indian priest, report says
The Washington Post / by Niha Masih
Father Stan Swamy died after spending more than eight months in jail on terrorism charges
For months, Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest, claimed his innocence in courts and pleaded for medical care, but Indian authorities denied him bail. He died at a hospital in July 2021 after spending more than eight months in jail on terrorism charges.
Now, an examination of an electronic copy of his computer by Arsenal Consulting, a Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm, concludes that a hacker infiltrated his device and planted evidence, according to a new report by the company. Read more
Hackers Planted Files to Frame an Indian Priest Who Died in Custody
Wired / by Andy Greenberg
And new evidence suggests those hackers may have collaborated with the police who investigated him.
The case of the Bhima Koregaon 16, in which hackers planted fake evidence on the computers of two Indian human rights activists that led to their arrest along with more than a dozen colleagues, has already become notorious worldwide. Now the tragedy and injustice of that case is coming further into focus: A forensics firm has found signs that the same hackers also planted evidence on the hard drive of another high-profile defendant in the case who later died in jail—as well as fresh clues that the hackers who fabricated that evidence were collaborating with the Pune City Police investigating him. Read more
Evidence Planted On Activist Stan Swamy’s Laptop, Claims US Report
NDTV / by Aruveetil Mariyam Alavi, Sreenivasan Jain
The report blasts a hole in the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) charges against Stan Swamy.
A new report by an American forensic firm shows that multiple incriminating documents were planted in the computer of Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old activist-priest who was arrested for alleged terror links in 2020 and who died in custody a year later. Read more
India Trains Its Sights on Dissent in Chhattisgarh – Snooping on Civil Society
Voelkerrechtsblog / by Allison West
Development in the form of profit-driven resource exploitation ventures in India’s central state of Chhattisgarh, led by corporations and facilitated by the state, have wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of the region’s indigenous Adivasi peoples. In the face of widespread dispossession, corporate land grabs, environmental degradation and militarized policing in Chhattisgarh, Adivasi activists and organized civil society play a vital role in monitoring, documenting and challenging ongoing human rights violations on the ground…
In 2020, Amnesty International and Citizen Lab uncovered a coordinated spyware campaign targeting nine human rights defenders in India, including several active in Chhattisgarh. Between January and October 2019, the targets received spearphishing emails with malicious links that, if opened, would have installed NetWire, a commercially manufactured Windows spyware that monitors a user’s actions and communications..
The common link between the human rights defenders targeted in the NetWire attack seemed to be a record of speaking out on behalf of those imprisoned in the 2018 Bhima Koregaon Case. Read more
Report Release: In the Name of Development – Indigenous Rights Violations and Shrinking Space in Chhattisgarh
By India Justice Project & ECCHR
The report presents insights into the ongoing assault by the Indian state and powerful corporations on the indigenous peoples of the country through a case study of Chhattisgarh. In particular, the report highlights the legal and institutional means through which powerful state, military and corporate actors appropriate land and shrink space for Adivasi rights and resistance in Chhattisgarh. Read full report (PDF, 72 pages)
SC frowns on government’s cavalier dismissal of a PIL’s demand for guidelines on ‘seizure, examination and preservation’ of such gadgets
The Supreme Court on Friday said electronic devices seized by investigating agencies “have personal contents and we have to protect this”, frowning on the Centre’s cavalier dismissal of a PIL’s demand for guidelines on the “seizure, examination and preservation” of such devices.
… several accused in the Elgaar Parishad-Maoist links case have said — with support from forensic analysts — that false “evidence” was planted on their devices after their seizure by investigators. Read more
The evidence of malware use has now come in from multiple studies, but the accused remain in jail and the trial is yet to begin.
It has been a year since The Wire, along with 16 other international media organisations – all part of the Pegasus Project – reported how at least eight activists, lawyers and academics arrested for their supposed role in the Elgar Parishad case were on the leaked database as probable Pegasus targets. Besides the accused persons, their family members, lawyers, associated activists and, in some cases, minor children too appeared on the list. Read more
As we have completed four years since the first arrest in the Elgar Parishad case, a quick recap of how 16 renowned human rights activists were jailed may be useful.
There is much more than meets the eye. Maybe we will have a few answers after the trial ends, but not all. It would be difficult to say what exactly caused the arrest of these 16 eminent persons, but we can definitely relook at the turn of events and try to understand what really happened. Read more
Pune Police Evade The Law By Dodging Questions On Use Of Israeli Spyware On Indian Citizens
Artice 14 / by Saurav Das
Despite multiple right-to-information applications asking whether the Pune police purchased or used military-grade Pegasus spyware in the Bhima-Koregaon case, its information officer evaded an answer, refusing to admit the questions on technical grounds. Experts said the police replies were legally untenable and dismissive of a growing demand for greater transparency and accountability in India’s surveillance framework.
A Pune police refusal to reply to right-to-information (RTI) queries about the use of Israeli spyware Pegasus raise several questions about whether the military-grade hacking weapon was deployed in implicating lawyers, activists, and academics in the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad (BK-EP) case, which invokes India’s draconian counter-terrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. Read more
Media in India: Shackled and spied on
The Leaflet / by Sukumar Muralidharan
Early in April, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting [MIB] ordered 22 YouTube channels blocked, 18 based in India and four in Pakistan. Also blocked were four social media accounts and one news website. Later in the month, another 16 YouTube channels were blocked, ten in India and all others in the neighbouring State, alongside one Facebook account. Read more