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January 20, 2022
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Indian Activist Sudha Bharadwaj Gets Bail In Caste Violence Case

A court in India has granted bail to prominent rights activist and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, more than three years after she, along with more than a dozen others, was accused of conspiring to set off caste violence in a village in the western state of Maharashtra.

A week after the Bombay High Court granted “default bail” to Bharadwaj, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Wednesday laid out the bail’s conditions, asking the 60-year-old activist to submit a bond of 50,000 rupees ($663), surrender her passport and remain in Mumbai for further investigation. The court also prevented her from talking to the media about the case.

Bharadwaj was arrested in August 2018 in the Bhima-Koregaon case, which refers to a village by the same name in Maharashtra, located about 170km (106 miles) southeast of India’s financial capital Mumbai.

On January 1 each year, members of India’s marginalised Dalit (former “untouchables”) community gather at Bhima-Koregaon to mark a battle in 1818 in which the Dalits sided with the colonial British army to defeat Hindu upper-caste Peshwa rulers.

The commemorations in 2018, however, were marred by violence after a rally led by the Dalits was allegedly attacked by Hindus belonging to the privileged castes, who typically resent the celebration of the 200-year-old battle. At least one person was killed and many others wounded in the violence, leading to protests across Maharashtra and other parts of India.

The NIA accused 16 activists, including Bharadwaj, of delivering inflammatory speeches during the Bhima-Koregaon event and charged them under the “draconian” Unlawful Activities Prevention ACT (UAPA). They were also accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves told Al Jazeera the case against Bharadwaj was a “pure and simple case of victimisation”.

“Even though I am overjoyed by the grant of statutory bail [to Bharadwaj], I must complain that three years is a shocking delay,” said Gonsalves.

AJZEERAL

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