Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar on June 10 came down heavily on the Maharashtra police and state government, for arresting prominent Dalit activists from Maharashtra and Delhi on June 6, in connection with alleged provocative speeches at the Elgar Parishad gathering in Shaniwarwada, Pune on December 31, 2017.
“When like-minded people came together to organise Elgar Parishad, they were called Naxals and arrested. Everyone knows who executed Bhima-Koregaon violence but those who have no link with it, were arrested. This is misuse of power,” said the NCP President in Pune on June 10.
“They say there was a threatening letter. I spoke to a retired police officer, who had worked for CID. He said there is no substance in the letter. The letter is being used to garner people's sympathy,” said Pawar.
Among the five activists arrested in the early hours of June 6 were senior journalist Sudhir Dhawale from Mumbai, advocate Surendra Gadling from Nagpur and Dalit activist Rona Wilson from New Delhi. Police called it a crackdown on so-called "urban Maoist sympathisers.
The Elgar Parishad 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 after the gathering, unprecedented violence was witnessed against Dalits who had congregated at 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. Right-wing Hindutva organisations Shivaji Pratishthan and Samasta Hindu Aghadi are alleged to have been at the forefront of the violence, which left one dead. The Pune Police, however, are probing the role of the Ambedkarite activists in the violence.
Pune Police then claimed to have stumbled upon letters in the course of their investigations, that point to plans to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. One of the incriminating letters was allegedly found from the home of Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson. All five Ambedkarite activists arrested by Pune Police, were implicated in the plot.
Sharad Pawar is not the first to cast doubts on the letters purporting to show plans to assassinate the PM and CM.