Bhima Koregaon case: Two prisoners pass law entrance test | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Bhima Koregaon case: Two prisoners pass law entrance test

May 08, 2024 09:42 AM IST

Mahesh Raut and Sagar Gorkhe hold master’s degrees from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Yashawantrao Chavhan Maharashtra Open University

Mumbai: With only the aid of old books from the Taloja Central Prison’s library, Mahesh Raut, arrested in connection with the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case, scored 99.79% in the state common entrance test (CET) for law. Sagar Gorkhe, a fellow accused, also passed the test, scoring 57.7%. The results were declared on May 3.

Mahesh Raut, a Gadchiroli-based activist fighting for the rights of tribals, scored 99.79% in the state common entrance test (CET) for law.
Mahesh Raut, a Gadchiroli-based activist fighting for the rights of tribals, scored 99.79% in the state common entrance test (CET) for law.

Raut, a Gadchiroli-based activist fighting for the rights of tribals, had been contemplating taking the test for around two years, said a relative, who requested anonymity. “In his six years in prison, he’s come across many underprivileged people who cannot afford legal aid, let alone read their chargesheet. After the Supreme Court stayed the bail given by the Bombay high court, it seemed like he would be staying in prison for a while longer. So, he decided to use his time [to study law].”

Despite the longstanding intention, Raut only registered for the test at the eleventh hour, in late February when online applications end. His relative explained this was because a lot slips through in the little communication they’re allowed to have with him. “We only get to talk to him for around 15 minutes a week on voice/video call. Finding his documents was also a scramble,” they said.

Gorkhe, a member of Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch who was imprisoned in 2020, had also been thinking of taking the test for a while. He tried last year but couldn’t get all his documents in order before the deadline, said Ramdas Unhale, Gorkhe’s friend.

To the uninitiated, it might seem like prisoners have a lot of time to study. But it wasn’t that simple, said Raut’s relative. “It is prison. So, even though they have the time to study, they have to do so within the restrictions and a fixed schedule, and without any external help.”

Raut and Gorkhe hold master’s degrees from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Yashawantrao Chavhan Maharashtra Open University, respectively. In 2020, Raut also completed a diploma in human rights from the Indian Institute of Human Rights, scoring well over 80%.

With no substantial indication of how long they will be in jail, the two accused are at a crossroads as to what next. Unhale, speaking about Gorkhe’s plans, said, “We’ll now see which colleges he has gotten into and apply to one of them, preferably in Pune, as that is where he used to stay. He’ll do it through distance learning, under special provisions for inmates, and then continue normally when he’s out of jail.”

Gorkhe’s case is currently being heard in a sessions court, said one of the lawyers representing the BK-16, referring to the 16 persons booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the Bhima Koregaon case. “Discharge applications are being heard. His bail [plea] is pending in the high court. We cannot say how much time it will take,” said the lawyer, who requested anonymity.

The situation is similarly uncertain for Raut. He was granted bail by the Bombay high court in September 2023, before the Supreme Court stayed the order. “Now, it will depend on when the Supreme Court will hear the matter,” said the lawyer.

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