It has not even been two years since a narrative of ‘Urban Naxals’ started in Maharashtra and implicated rights activists and lawyers on the said charge. With the Maha Vika Aaghadi assuming power in the State there is speculation for it to reconsider these allegations. Dhananjay Munde, the MLA of NCP in a communication to the State’s newly sworn-in chief minister, has requested him to re-look the ‘false allegations’ made out against the said activists and lawyers, who are ailing in different jails across the State. He has demanded that as the case was based on frivolous grounds, the same be withdrawn and the activists soon be released. NCP is one of the three political parties who have joined hands in alliance to form a government in the State.
The arrests of these activists were undertaken by the Pune Police, in two rounds arresting nine activists. As per the allegations put by the police these activists are involved in Urban Naxalism, a newly innovated phrase thrown around by the authorities. The complaint pertains that they have been planning to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Rajiv Gandhi style. Apart from the said allegation, they are also booked for triggering violence on thousands of Dalits-Bahujans present at Bhima Koregaon in the outskirts of Pune city on January 1 in 2018. A gathering was organised on that day to celebrate the 200th anniversary of a historic battle won by the British army comprising of soldiers from the Dalit community. The war was fought against the Peshwa regime which was led by Baji Rao II in 1818, a Brahmin King.
Nothing but a BJP Propaganda:
A copy of the letter written in Marathi to the CM by Munde says that it was a BJP propaganda to implicate several renowned activists in the State falsely. He says, while some are already behind bars, others are being unnecessarily embroiled in long-pending litigation, causing unnecessary harassment. It highlights how it has been a pattern of the BJP to be against the freedom of speech. The letter further reads,
“People are raising their voices against the government, which is intentionally attacked. At such times, it is important that those who have been victimised by the BJP government are given justice.”
Even Shiv Sena which was in alliance with the BJP before the Maha Vikas Aghadi was very critical of how the Fadnavis led government in the State as handing the investigation. Via their mouthpiece, Saamana it has criticised the grounds taken by the Pune police to justify the arrests that it made. The piece read that it is not uncommon within the politicians and the government to ‘use the police’ to serve their ulterior motives in the present times. Dated September 2018, it says the faster the truth emerges, the better for the police.
Among the people who are arrested and detained are Sudhir Dhawale, a writer and a Mumbai-based Dalit rights activists and Surendra Gadling, a practising lawyer from Nagpur with expertise in UAPA. Others arrested are Mahesh Raut (Activist), Shoma Sen (Professor), Rona Wilson (Prisoners’’ Rights Activist), Arun Ferreira(Advocate), Sudha Bhardwaj(Advocate), Varavara Rao (Writer) and Vernon Gonsalves. The first five were arrested on June 6 last year and the arrest of the rest named above followed.
After the barbaric violence in Bhima Koregaon, the masterminds were identified to be Manohar Bhide and Milind Ekbote, and both are senior Brahmin Hindutva Leaders. They were named as the prime accused by several victims, saying they had plotted the entire massacre and had unleashed their men to attack the Bhaujans visiting Bhima Koregaon. However, it is said that the police chose to ignore these complaints and instead went on to name and implicate several rights activists has accused leading to their arrest.
The move of the sitting government pushing to re-look into the allegations is being appreciated by the counsels appearing for the arrested persons in the case. Advocate Nihalsingh Rathod has said that since the very beginning of the case, the case has been based on false allegations and evidence has been plated for implicating these activists. He also reveals that the police has been unable to produce the hash copy of the seizures made from their homes. He says that there have been tiring efforts which demands the mirror image of the electronic evidence, which the police bases its claim on. However, even then, the said evidence and copies thereof have not been handed over to the accused.
Intolerance towards the Dalit community in the BJP-Raj.
The charges were not only thrown on the activists as perpetrators but rather the State with the help of the police had launched a ‘combing operation’ against the Dalit rights activists targeting those who are politically active and assertive, charging them for vandalism and attack on the said day of the incident. There were several hundred of activists who were arrested after the Bhima Koregaon massacre. The politics were played well when the Devendra Fadnavis-led government promised that they would take back the charges but went back on its promise. Since the BJP was in power, several activists have been slapped with legal notices and summons on a regular basis and since then under the rule of the BJP government.
Anticipating an announcement in the matter on December 06.
Another NCP leader and a member of the legislative council, Prakash Gajbiye wrote a letter to the chief minister of the State, Uddhav Thackrey to look into the cases and stop harassment of Dalit immediately. He pointed out saying
“The Fadnavis government made use of the local police and had implicated several Dalit rights activists, including women and young children,”
The initiative is being taken to bring the attention of the government into the said matter by another NCP leader Jitendra Awhad. On the upcoming death anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar on December 6, a gathering of the Bahujans have been planned in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park. A senior leader of the community has said that they are anticipating certain announcements in this regard. In conversation with The Wire, he issued a statement which read:
“The government is serious about reviewing these cases. Several activists have suffered under the Fadnavis government, and we want to ensure that it doesn’t repeat in our government. We are trying to take every measure to avoid that situation,”
Another issue that remains pending is that along with the already registered criminal complaints, the BJP government had also set up a judicial commission to look into the reasons behind the said violence that took place. However, despite more than a year of the appointment of the commission, the report has not been submitted, neither it has proceeded to record the statement. The new alliance in power is set to review the functioning of the said commission.
It has to be seen that the arrested activists are renowned human rights defenders in the country. A case made out against them should have followed utmost caution which has been missing since the case began. An attempt is being identified to throttle their voices and muzzle dissent at the disposal of the state power.