The civil society has strongly condemned the arrest of six activists by Pune police, who termed them ‘Maoists’, on Wednesday morning. The people associated with the Dalits’ Bhima Koregaon movement allege that this is a conspiracy to defame the entire Dalit movement.
Only one of the arrested persons—Sudhir Dhawale, a senior journalist, was actively involved in the movement, the rest five (activist Roma Wilson, lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Mahesh Raut, Rana Jacob and English professor in Nagpur University Shoma Sen) had no direct links with the movement.
Justice Kolse Patil who is actively involved in the Bhima-Koregaon Movement, said, “The Maharashtra government is doing this injustice at the behest of the Central government. The accusations that these five activists were associated with the movement or this movement was associated with the Maoist movement is an absolute lie. Because we all took a pledge during this movement that we will never vote for BJP in our life, the government has acted vengefully. No concrete action was taken against the people like Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote who started spreading violence, despite strong evidences and witnesses against them, but now a conspiracy is being hatched to repress the Dalit dissent by arresting them. The movement actually was conceived during a meeting in my house in which Justice PB Sawant was also present.”
Civil rights activist Professor Anand Teltumbde reacted sharply to these arrests and said the Maharashtra government is doing this all to save the Hindutva terrorists. These arrests should be condemned also because it’s a part of the preparation to throttle a significant Dalit movement by calling it Maoist
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) and PUCL have also strongly censured these arrests. PUCL said these five persons were active in separate organisations and movements It has demanded the immediate release of these 6 activists.
Dalit groups commemorate the 1818 battle as the East India Company’s army consisted of Mahars, a Dalit community, who defeated the upper-caste Peshwas forces. However, some Hindutva organisations had opposed the commemoration this time.
A senior journalist, Dhawale was the organiser of the Elgar Parishad gathering on December 31, in Shaniwarwada, Pune, through the leftist Kabir Kala Manch, which triggered a series of major political developments earlier this year. The gathering was addressed, among others, by Gujarat Dalit leader and MLA Jignesh Mewani, JNU student leader Umar Khalid, Chhattisgarh activist Soni Sori and Bhim Army President Vinay Ratan Singh.
A day later on January 1, unprecedented violence broke out against Dalits who had congregated at Bhima Koregaon near Pune to pay tribute to Dalit soldiers, who were part of the British army which had fought against the Peshwas in 1818.