On January 1, caste riots erupted in Koregaon-Bhima area of Pune following violence during an event organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the historic Anglo-Marathi battle between the British forces and the Peshwa Bajirao II.
In a major breakthrough in the January 1 Bhima-Koregaon violence, the Pune police in a joint operation with the Delhi Police nabbed five Dalits activists from Maharashtra and New Delhi. The arrested persons are Sudhir Dhawale from Mumbai, advocate Surendra Gadling from Nagpur, Dalit activist Rona Wilson from New Delhi, Mahesh Raut from Mumbai and Shoma Sen from Nagpur. The five arrested five members are all linked to the Kabir Kala Manch which had organized Elgaar Conference in Pune on December 31 last year.
The following day, on January 1, caste riots erupted in Bhima-Koregaon area of Pune. One person was killed in the violence and several Dalits outfits had called for a statewide bandh. The event was organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the historic Anglo-Marathi battle between the British forces and the Peshwa Bajirao II.
According to reports, the Pune police had in April raided homes and offices of these activists in different parts of the country and questioned them briefly on their alleged involvement in various activities. They all are accused of spreading pamphlets and delivering provocative speeches during a gathering of Dalits in Bhima-Koregaon vicinity of Pune. The event was also attended by Dalit activist and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani, JNU student Umar Khalid (who was arrested for leading an anti-India protest within the JNU campus against the hanging of terrorist Afzal Guru), Chhattisgarh activist Soni Sori and Bhim Army national president Vinay Ratan Singh.
Top developments in Bhima-Koregaon violence case:
1. Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police Sanjeev Yadav said that Wilson was arrested from a south Delhi neighbourhood in a joint operation by Delhi and Maharashtra police. According to Yadav, Wilson is a Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus and was hiding in a DDA flat in Munirka near the varsity. Police later produced him before the Patiala House Court. The court sent him to two-day transit remand. He will be produced before a Pune court on June 8.
2. Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale was too picked up by the police from Mumbai. Sudhir’s lawyer Arun Ferreira said that police officials wer trying to fabricate papers to link the incident with Maoists. “At the moment when an investigation board has been set up by the Maharashtra govt to find the real cause behind Bhima-Koregaon incidents, the police are trying to fabricate papers and link the incidents with Maoists.”
3. In another development, the police in Nagpur raided the residences of Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen. According to media reports, police officials were reportedly considering invoking the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against them. Raut is a former fellow of the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship. Raut also has alleged links with Maoists in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, an IANS report said.
4. While Dhawale is an editor of Marathi magazine ‘Virodhi’, Gadling had appeared as counsel for Maoist activists including GN Saibaba. Police said that Gadling had also provided legal help to the Kabir Kala Manch that organized the Elgaar Conference in Pune.
5. Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani slammed the government and termed it an ‘attack on Ambedkarite movement’. “Maharashtra police has arrested Ambedkarite activist and editor Sudhir Dhawale in Mumbai, advocate Surendra Gadling in Nagpur and Rona Wilson in Delhi. All 3 booked under draconian UAPA while Bhima Koregaon culprit Manohar Bhide roams scot free (sic).” he tweeted.
6. Reacting to the arrests, Elgaar Parishad coordinator Harshali Potdar said that the arrests were illegal. “The arrests are illegal… a ploy to victimize us and intended to save Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and Milind Ekbote.”
7. Both Bhide and Ekbote are Hindutva activists and accused of triggering anti-Dalit violence. Bhide is the founder of Shree Shiv Pratisthan Hindustan whereas Ekbote is the leader of Samastha Hindu Aghadi. The Maharashtra government had given clean chit to Bhide but Ekbote was arrested in March for his alleged involvement in Koregaon-Bhima riots. A month later, he was, however, granted bail.
8. Earlier in April, prominent Dalit leader and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) president Prakash Ambedkar had accused the BJP government of shielding Sambhaji Bhide. He had claimed that Hindutva elements had instigated the riots and demanded their arrest. “Bhide enjoys the backing of Modi, and it is a well known fact that Modi considers Bhide as his Guru,” he had said. However, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis had rejected Ambedkar’s allegations saying there was no evidence to prove Bhide’s involvement in riots.
9. Hitting back, Bhide had blamed Ambedkar and others like Jignesh Mewani, Umar Khalid and retired Bombay High Court judge Justice BG Kolse-Patil for the violence. He had accused them of inciting people to violence at their public meeting in Pune on December 31.