Bhima-Koregaon violence: Civil society organisations come together to condemn the arrests
Participants expressed concern about recent 'tendency of the government of branding people as anti-nationalists if they support the cause of Dalits' and also demanded the release of those arrested.
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NEW DELHI: A protest meeting was held in the national capital today to condemn the arrests of five activist-intellectuals by the Pune Police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence in January.
The Pune Police had yesterday arrested the five and claimed that they had Maoist links.
The arrested are prominent Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale; Head of English Department, Nagpur University, Shoma Sen; activist Mahesh Raut; Kerala-native Rona Wilson, who is associated with the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners; and general secretary of the Indian Association of People's Lawyers (IAPL) Surendra Gadling.
The protest organised at Jantar Mantar saw the participation of All India Students Association (AISA), All India Students Federation, Association for Protection of Civil Rights, etc.
where participants expressed concern about the recent 'tendency of the government of branding people as anti-nationalists if they support the cause of Dalits' and also demanded the release of those arrested.
The protesting activists claimed that people who raised a voice for their constitutional rights were being branded as Naxalites and Maoists by the government and were being sent behind the bars.
Activist Anirban Bhattacharya said, "It was (B R) Ambedkar who was first branded as an anti-national. He said that if someday he was asked to choose between the welfare of the country and the welfare of the Dalit community he would choose the welfare of the Dalit community. All the people following Dr Ambedkar's footsteps and supporting the oppressed in the society are regarded as anti-nationals."
IAPL vice-president Sudha Bharadwaj, who was also present at the meeting, said that the arrests had been made to discourage the unity and organising of Dalit and Bahujans against castiest-Hindutva forces.
She said that it was being done to deter lawyers and activists standing up for political prisoners.
She said that 'raids' were conducted in April in the houses of those arrested while the arrests were made almost two months later.
"If they had found something at that time, why did they not arrest these persons there and then? Gadling was arrested in the case, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), in which the FIR was registered in January and conspiracy charges were added in March," she claimed.
Gadling was the defence counsel for Delhi University professor G N Saibaba who was convicted for Maoist links.
AISF national president Valli Ullah Khadri said that this was the time when everyone should be united against such forces.
"This is not a new form of attack. We have to stand united and we should be a ready for a fight. We are not afraid of such arrests and we are ready to court arrests. Whenever we have talked about the rights of farmers or Dalits, we are sent to jails," he added.
The case in which all these people were arrested was registered against the organisers of Elgar Parishad and Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) members.
A senior police officers had said that some of arrested activists were the "top brass of the Urban Maoists".
The event (Elgar Parishad) was attended by Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, JNU student leader Umar Khalid, Rohit Vemula's mother Radhika Vemula, and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar.
Shaniwarwada, a historical fortification in the city, had remained the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire until 1818.
The complaint against the KKM members was lodged by one Tushar Damgude.
The complainant had alleged that the "provocative" speeches and presentations made during the entire programme "promoted" enmity between two groups.
One person was killed in the caste violence between two groups near Sanaswadi, adjacent to Koregaon Bhima.
The violence led to the statewide Dalit agitation.
The mobs had damaged and torched several vehicles and shops on New Year's day and the houses of local residents were also ransacked.
The Pune Police had registered a case against Hindutwa leader Ekbote and another Bhide.
Ekbote has already been arrested in the case. Bhide and Ekbote are accused of orchestrating the violence.