The police succeeded in preventing Dalit leaders and politicians from holding a meeting at Deekshabhoomi and a rally outside the Vidhan Bhavan here on Monday — the first day of the Legislature’s winter session. They detained 269 people ensuring neither the march nor the meeting could take place.
Although the tight bandobast took the fizz out of the planned Halla Bol Morcha, the day saw its fair share of drama. Former minister of state Sulekha Kumbhare bit a policeman during a scuffle; Prakash Ambedkar travelled in an autorickshaw so police wouldn’t recognise him and Dr Rajendra Gavai traded his formal shirts for bright-coloured T-shirt to sport a younger look.
After police withdrew permission for the morcha last week, the Samyukta Republican Andolan Samiti (an umbrella body of several factions that has taken up the Khairlanji issue) decided to convene a peace meeting instead at the Deekshabhoomi grounds. Sensing a law and order situation, the police clamped orders prohibiting entry of Republican leaders in the city.
However, all the leaders attempted to reach the grounds with their supporters in tow. Kumbhare with 40 supporters reached the Vidhan Bhavan clad in a burkha. Her look however, made her conspicuous in the high-security zone. A scuffle ensued between the group and the policemen during which Kumbhare tried to break through the police cordon to enter the Vidhan Bhavan, biting a police constable in the process. Director General of Police Dr. P.S. Pasricha told the Hindustan Times that Kumbhare’s attack even tore the policeman’s uniform.
The police also stopped Communist Party of India (CPI) Secretary D. Raja outside Deekshabhoomi grounds and whisked him away. After he was released in the evening, Raja charged them of taking over the entire city. “Is this a police raj or a democracy?” he posed.
Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, who was also prevented from entering Deekshabhoomi, sat down on the street with about 20 protestors. He blasted out against the “repressive measures” of the police saying it was against the norms of democracy.
Republican leader Ramdas Athavale, banned from entering the city, was greeted by the police at the airport tarmac and was immediately arrested. Another Republican leader, Jogendra Kawade, threatened a morcha in the afternoon. But he too was arrested in the evening.
Dr Pasricha justified the police action. He said that an average Dalit was not really a part of the protests. Instead, certain elements are trying to vitiate the situation, he added.