In a multi-city raid, Pune police conducted searches at houses of prominent activists, lawyers and the artists of Kabir Kala Manch in Pune, Mumbai and Delhi, which included activist Rona Wilson (Delhi) and lawyer Surendra Gadling (Nagpur). The residences of Sudhir Dhawale and Harshali Potdar, Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichore and Dhawala Dengle were also searched in Pune. The raids were conducted in connection with the violence that took place on the 200th anniversary of celebration of the historic battle where Brahminist rule of Peshwa was challenged by Mahars of British Army.
The latest action comes three months after the registration of the First Information Report (FIR). Tushar Ramesh Damgude, a builder by profession, in his complaint on January 8, had claimed that the activists present at the event performed songs which allegedly incited violence.
The complaint strangely claims that the activists had connection with Maoist groups. Even the complainant, without any concrete evidence, claimed that young Dalits were misguided by Maoists. "I am saying that the policy of the banned Maoist organization CPI (Maoist) is to misguide the Dalit community and fill their minds with extremist Maoist thoughts," the complaint reads.
Main Accused are Roaming Scot-free
Responding to the raids, Gadling said that the police is targetting the innocent and allowing the main accused to go scot-free. Manohar Bhide, the founder of ultra right wing group Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and former three time BJP corporator and Samasta Hindu Aghadi chief Milind Ekbote, are accused of instigating the violence on the Dalit visitors. The Dalits had come to pay homage to 22 Mahar soldiers who died in the Bhima Koregaon battle on December 31 last year. While Ekbote is in judicial custody, Bhide has not been questioned by Pune police in the matter.
Bhide and Ekbote have been accused of unleashing violence in their areas. Bhide, who acquired the name of Sambhaji after the son of Shivaji, was in news for violence after a Ganesh pandal denied permission to put up an artiste’s impression of the assassination of Adil Shah’s army commander Afjal Khan by Shivaji Maharaj. He had also opposed the release of Jodhaa Akbar in 2008. Similarly, Ekbote, accused in 12 cases of rioting, trespassing, criminal intimidation and attempts to spread enmity between two communities, has been convicted in five cases.
Commenting on the raids, Mahesh Bharatiya told Newsclick that a supporter of Manohar Bhide appealed for the murder of the Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis. In a Facebook post, Rao Sahib Patil, a supporter of Bhide, said that the target of attacking could not be completed in Bhima Koregaon due to security and Fadanvis must be killed for it. "We submitted the evidence to government to initiate action against Bhide and his supporters but the police is targetting us now," said Bharatiya.
An Attempt to Silence Dissidents
Gadling added that the government is trying to silence people who have stood up to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. “I did not participate in the Bhima Koregaon event. However, we had collected funds for it like we do for any such programme. The police are troubling us and allowing those behind the violence to go scot-free. These raids are meant to silence people who have stood up to the RSS,” added Gadling.
M N Kamble, Pune President of Bahujan Bharip Parishad, said the raids are also an attempt to divert the attention from the real perpetrators of the violence that left one dead and scores injured. “These raids are clearly aimed at diverting attention from the real culprits of the Koregaon-Bhima violence. Cops had already conducted an inquiry in the matter and did not find anything against us. But despite this, the powers are targeting us and KKM once more. This is an attempt to avoid the arrest of Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide and an attempt to create a rift, and destabilise the stronghold that the Dalit movement is becoming in its anti-government campaign,” Pune Mirror quoted Kamble as saying.
Government Afraid of Dalits
After the raids, the activists allege that the government is afraid of Dalits. That's why they are targetting them. " We have successfully organised three major events against the government. First, the bandh against Bhima Koregaon violence was successful. Then, thousands marched to arrest the culprits of the violence. Third, the Bharat Bandh against the dilution of SC/ST prevention of Atrocties Act was also successful. That's why, they have started targetting Dalits. Police have seized books of Ambedkar. Is it a crime to keep Ambedkar's books?" said Bharatiya.