Police in the Indian state of Maharashtra have decided to seek help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the domestic intelligence and security service of the US, to retrieve data from a damaged hard disc which was recovered from Maoist sympathiser Varavara Rao’s house.
The hard disc, seized from Rao's house during a raid in August 2018, was earlier sent to four forensic laboratories that failed to recover any data.
According to a senior police official involved with the case, the hard disc was sent to two laboratories in Maharashtra where experts could not retrieve the data. Later, attempts were made to retrieve the data at forensic labs based in the states of Gujarat and Hyderabad. But no success could be made.
"Since labs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are much advanced, the decision to send the hard disc there has been taken and necessary approvals have been given by the Union Home Ministry. A team of India's forensic experts and police will soon travel to the USA," the police officer said.
The prosecution recently submitted a draft charge sheet against 19 accused, including nine activists, who have already been arrested in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case.
According to the police, the Elgar Parishad conclave was held on 31 December 2017 on the eve of 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima in Pune. It was supported by Maoists. Some inflammatory speeches made at the event led to violence on the next day (1 January) at the Koregaon Bhima war memorial in the district of Pune.
The 1818 Battle of Koregaon was related to the Dalit community (untouchables). On 1 January 1818, about 800 troops of the British Army, with a number of Mahars (leather workers), defeated a numerically superior force of the Peshwa Baji Rao II, the last prime minister or Peshwa of the Maratha Empire (1674-1818).
A victory pillar was erected in Koregaon by the British, commemorating the dead soldiers. In 1928, the founder of the Indian constitution B. R. Ambedkar led the first commemoration ceremony here. Since then, on 1 January, Ambedkarite Dalits (Ambedkar followers) gather at Bhima Koregaon to celebrate their victory against the upper caste Peshwa regime, whom they view as their oppressors.
The 2018 Bhima Koregaon stone-pelting refers to attack on untouchables during an annual celebratory gathering at a place called Bhima Koregaon.
Police said the charges include a conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and overthrow the government as well as waging war against the Government of India. These charges have been brought against all of the 19 accused by the prosecution in the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case.