New Delhi: The Bhima Koregaon violence in January 2018 and the subsequent probes into the matter is likely to be reviewed by the newly formed Maharashtra government of Maha Vikas Aghadi, headed by Shiv Sena leader, Uddhav Thackeray. The appeal for reconsideration of cases slapped against dalit youth and activists by the previous BJP government was made on Tuesday by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA, Dhananjay Munde.
The previous Bharatiya Janata Party, headed by Devendra Fadnavis, came under much criticism for booking and arresting several dalit youth and social activists under draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). While demanding the release of these people, Munde wrote to the Chief Minister, appealing that the “false allegations” be looked into, as these people have been languishing in jail.
In his letter, Munde said the BJP-led government had "harassed" intellectuals, activists, social workers and ordinary citizens who had raised their voice against injustice, and had labelled several of them as "urban Naxals".
"I request you to withdraw the cases," Munde said in his letter to Thackeray. Incidentally, some of the activists arrested by the Pune police in connection with the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case have been accused of having links with Naxal outfits, including the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Munde, who wrote the letter in Marathi also said, “The BJP government has falsely implicated several activists. While some of them are already behind bars, others have been forced to visit the courts on a daily basis. BJP government has always been against an individual’s freedom of speech.”
They were also accused of planning the Elgaar Parishad event, which according to the police, led to the Bhima Koregaon violence.
As per report, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has agreed in principle to withdraw nearly 700 cases related to the Bhima Koregaon and Maratha agitations, in phases.
Named as Elgaar Parishad case, 10 activists (in two batches) were booked under UAPA and several other sections of IPC code. Nine of them -- Sudhir Dhawale, a writer and Mumbai-based dalit rights activist, Surendra Gadling, lawyer from Nagpur, Mahesh Raut, a young activist on displacement issues from Gadchiroli, Shoma Sen, a university professor and head of the English literature department at Nagpur University, Rona Wilson, a Delhi-based prisoners’ rights activist, advocate Arun Ferreira, advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, writer Varavara Rao and Vernon Gonsalves were in custody. Gautam Navlakha, author, journalist and human rights activist, who was also booked in the same case could get protection from arrest after his repeated appeals in numerous courts from lower courts to even the Supreme Court.
Navlakha was recently granted protection from arrest till 6 December by the Bombay High Court.
The Elgaar Parishad Event December 31, 2017 evening in which lakhs of dalits from across the country participated at Koregaon village in Pune, was organised with the aim of sending a strong message against “communal forces in the country,” its organiser maintained, including two reputed retired Justices, BG Kolse-Patil and PB Sawant.
The retired judges have said that the gathering became possible as another 260 organisations joined them who collectively planned the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Bhima Koregaon battle on January 1, 2018, which symbolises the victory of Mahar Dalits along with British soldiers over upper-caste Peshwas.
But, it later emerged that another plan was also being hatched in December 2018, apparently to disrupt and target the dalits events by several far-right Hindutva groups, revealed an immediate fact-finding committee report on the Bhima Koregaon violence on the first day of 2018.
Initial news reports stated that both the Elgaar Parishad event and the subsequent Bhima Koregaon commemoration were disrupted by several ‘unidentified’ right-wing groups. It ended up in a riot like situation wherein one Dalit was killed and hundreds others injured.
According to the fact-finding committee headed by Pune Deputy Mayor Siddarth Dhende, which was appointed by Pune Rural Police itself found that the attacks on dalits were pre-planned by Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, founders of the right-wing groups Hindu Ekta Aghadi and Shivraj Pratishthan Hindustan respectively. Stating that there were numerous evidence including video footage that proved that dalit tombs in Koregaon village were desecrated on December 29, 2017 and initimidating rallies were taken up during Elgaar Parishad event by right-wingers. Furthermore, the Bhima Koregaon memorial pillar ‘Vijay Stambh’ was desecrated on 1 January 2018 and the local shopkeepers were asked to practise the day as a ‘Black Day’.
It is to be noted the BJP state government came under criticism as numerous loopholes came to light in the set of events that followed the arrests of the activists and the way the probe has been handled by the Pune police.
In October 2019, the American Bar Association, too, raised concerns over the arrests of the activists and lawyers in the Elgaar Parishad Case. “A preliminary review of the judicial records in this case raises serious concerns of procedural irregularities, abuse of process, and violations of fundamental human rights,” it stated. E
Earlier in October 2018, Several United Nations’ (UN) experts on human rights have expressed concern that the arrests and charges were brought in retaliation for the defendants’ legitimate human rights work.