Bhima Koregaon: Politics at heart of this Dalit, right-wing ‘war’
The alleged suicide of a 19-year-old girl and the subsequent police action of arresting two persons among the nine booked on the charges of abetment to suicide and Prevention of Atrocities Act has once again escalated the tension in Bhima Koregaon and the adjoining villagespune Updated: Apr 25, 2018 16:08 IST
Yogesh Joshi & Nadeem Inamdar
It has been close to four months after the violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune but the dust hasn’t settled down and politics from both sides are peaking.
The alleged suicide of a 19-year-old girl and the subsequent police action of arresting two persons among the nine booked on the charges of abetment to suicide and Prevention of Atrocities Act has once again escalated the tension in Bhima Koregaon and the adjoining villages. The deceased had witnessed her house being burnt during the violence on January 1,2018.
According to the police, the two persons who were arrested, have a legal dispute going on with girl’s family over construction on a piece of plot, next to their house. The body of Pooja, a class XI student, was recovered from a well, a day after she went missing.
On April 17, Pune Police carried out searches at the residence of eight persons in connection with the offences related to alleged inflammatory statements made by Kabir Kala Manch singers at the Elgaar Parishad ( conference ) at historic Shaniwarwada on December 31. Kabir Kala Manch is a left-leaning cultural organisation.
Both the Dalit organisations and the right-wing groups have been trading charges, ever since the violence broke out in the area.
Amid charges and counter charges, a number of so-called ‘fact finding’ committees have brought out their reports. On Tuesday, Vivek Vichar Manch, a RSS affiliated think tank released its report on the Bhima Koregaon riots alleging that the police had misled the government on the prevalent situation and demanded action against senior police officials for their acts of negligence. The report also gave clean chit to Hindutva organisation, Shiv Pratishtan Hindustan, who were accused of instigating the riots.
- DEC 31, 2017: The Elgaar Parishad conference was held on December 31 at Pune’s historic Shaniwarwada, the headquarters of the Peshwas. The conference was held in Pune to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima, which was fought between the then British Indian Army and the Peshwas. Besides Jignesh Mewani, Gujarat MLA and Umer Khalid, a student leader from JNU, Radhika Vemula, mother of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student who committed suicide, Prakash Ambedkar, Dalit leader, Soni Sori, tribal activist and Bhim army’s Vinay Ratan Singh attended the conference.
- JAN 1, 2018: Violence erupted at Bhima Koregaon and the nearby villages on January 1, the day which marked the war anniversary between the British and the Peshwas, leaving one person dead and four others injured. Rahul Phatangale, according to post mortem report, died of head injuries during stone-pelting by unidentified youth.
- JAN 2, 2018: Hindutva Leader Milind Ekbote, president of Samasta Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, both right-wing activists were booked after several leaders from left-leaning parties and activists named them for their involvement in inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon. An FIR was registered against the duo in the Pimpri police station. The complaint in this regard was lodged by social worker Anita Ravindra Savale (39), a resident of Kalewadi and a member of Bahujan Republican Socialist Party.
- JAN 8, 2018: Vishrambaug police booked six members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), a left-leaning cultural organisation, for making ‘provocative’ and ‘inflammatory’ statements during the Elgar Parishad.
- JANUARY 10, 2018: Pune rural police arrested three persons in connection with murder of 29-year-old Rahul Phatangale.
- FEB 14, 2018: An FIR was registered against Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid for their alleged provocative speeches at Elgaar Parishad. The FIR was registered based on a complaint submitted by two youths Akshay Bikkad (22) and Anand Dhond (25).
- MARCH 14, 2018: Milind Ekbote, president of Samasta Hindu Aghadi organisation and the main accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence was arrested by the Pune Rural Police, after his pre-arrest bail application was rejected by the Supreme Court (SC).
- Rona Wilson: A native of Kerala, Wilson is currently based in Delhi and is the public relations secretary of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP).
- Sudhir Dhawale: A Dalit activist, he founded the Republican Panthers Jatiantachi Chawal and aimed at creating a common political platform for Dalits. He was arrested on charges of sedition, but was acquitted later.
- Surendra Gadling: He is a lawyer and the general secretary of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers and has been providing legal aid to those arrested on charges of having Maoist links. He was the lawyer who had fought the court case of Kabir Kala Manch artistes.
- Harshali Potdar: She is a full-time member of Republican Panthers and was questioned over "Maoist links" in 2013.
- Ramesh Gaichor: Yerawada resident Gaichor was arrested by the state Anti Terrorism Squad under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in 2013 and was released on bail by the Supreme Court in January last year.
- Jyoti Jagtap: She is the wife of Ramesh Gaichor. Jyoti is an active member of the Kabir Kala Manch.
- Sagar Gorkhe: He is a lead poet and singer of Kabir Kala Manch and was booked along with Ramesh Gaichor and other KKM artistes under UAPA.
- Deepak Dhengle: He is a Kabir Kala Manch artiste who arrested by the state ATS in 2011 under provisions of UAPA. He was released on bail by the Bombay high court in 2013.
Former MP Pradeep Rawat released the 84-page report prepared by captain (retired) Smita Gaikwad, Sagar Shinde of Lokshahi Jagar Manch, Subhash Khilare of Matang Kranti Sena, Datta Shirke of Marahta Yuva Sangh, Pradeep Pawar, a social activist and Satyajit Tupe, an advocate. The report has blamed Maoist organisations and other outfits for the January 1 violence.
“The violence was orchestrated by outfits inclined to the Maoist ideology and those falsifying history to create tension in the society,” stated the report. After the release of report, Rawat blamed Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar for working for the cause of Maoists. “Prakash Ambedkar must not aid Maoists and instead, should focus on empowering the Dalits,” said Rawat.
Meanwhile, Ambedkar has continued to blame Hindutva organisations for the violence while also accusing the state BJP government of shielding the right-wing leaders such as Sambhaji Bhide who was booked by police but was not arrested.
Regarding the recent searches carried out by the Pune Police at the residence of Kabir Kala Manch members, Prakash Ambedkar said, “the searches carried out by the police for naxal links were in fact intended to protect the Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide and destroy evidence against him.”
Following the violence, police filed multiple FIRs against Hindutva leaders as well as on the members of the left-leaning organisations such as Kabir Kala Manch and Jignesh Mevani, Gujrat MLA . Another right-wing leader Milind Ekbote was also booked and arrested in the case.
On April 7, Dalit victims from Sanaswadi and Koregaon Bhima held a media conference in Pune and alleged that a silent social boycott of the riot-affected Dalits were underway in the areas and police was not taking strong action against the accused who had destroyed their properties, set them on fire and threatened them with dire consequences. Interestingly, victim Pooja Sakat’s brother Jaideep was also present in the conference and had alleged that the lives of his family members was under threat from some local villagers.
Similarly, deceased Rahul Fatangale cousin Tejas Dhawade has demanded the arrest of the ten accused in the murder case and blamed police inaction behind the delay in arrest. Dhawade also alleged that the state government had not taken the intelligence reports into consideration, which led to Bhima Koregaon violence.
Earlier, deputy mayor Siddhartha Dhende has claimed that a fact-finding committee on Bhima Koregaon riots constituted by the inspector general of police, Vishwas Nangre Patil of which he was a member had come to conclusion that Bhima Koregaon riots were pre-planned and radical Hindutva elements had conspired and targeted the Dalits as a part of the larger conspiracy. “The local police also failed miserably in maintaining the law and order. There was a significant amount of prior information about the event available with the police but the police did not take necessary action which could have averted the riots,” Dhende claimed.
The above said report was termed to be misleading and wrong by Nangre Patil who said that the state government will issue a clarification in the issue.