Hunt for ‘urban Maoists’ and penetration of Dalit movement by red mist
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Hunt for ‘urban Maoists’ and penetration of Dalit movement by red mist

Alleged penetration of Maoist ideologues and sympathisers into the Dalit movement in Maharashtra and its consolidation post-Bhima Koregaon riots in the run-up to the 2019 elections has emerged as one of the strongest undercurrents in the latest round of arrests.

pune Updated: Aug 30, 2018 15:06 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Maoist,Dalit,Bhima Koregaon
The Shivajinagar court in Pune was under heavy police bandobast for most of Wednesday, as three of the arrested activists were brought in for their hearing. (PRATHAM GOKHALE/HT PHOTO)

On June 15, a book launch took place at the Navalmal Firodia hall on the 5th floor of the MCCIA Trade Tower complex on Pune’s Senapati Bapat Road. Within days of the event, a team from Pune Police and the CBI was meeting key people, “wanting to know whether the event was pro-government or anti-government”.

Matters cooled down substantially when told that Shreehari Borkar, a former national general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) was the chief guest at the event “which was entirely pro-government,” a source closely associated with the event told HT on condition of anonymity.

The event in question was a panel discussion on “urban naxalism” and the Pune launch of Urban Naxals, a book by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri based on his expose’ on the nexus between an India-wide Maoist terror movement and their supporters in urban centres such as academia and media”.

The deep interest taken by the local and national security agencies in this event resonates strongly with Tuesday’s arrests of five civil rights activists, lawyers and writers from different parts of the country.

Alleged by the Pune Police to be “Maoist sympathisers” and part of a larger Maoist conspiracy to de-stablise the government, those arrested included lawyer and labour activist Sudha Bhardwaj, poet P Varavara Rao, activist Gautam Navlakha, and lawyers Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves.

Joint commissioner of police, Shivaji Bodkhe, told HT on Tuesday that the police is probing their role in Elgar Parishad, a conference organised by Dalits and Leftists at Pune’s Shaniwarwada on December 31.

Incidentally, former Supreme Court judge, PB Sawant and ex-Bombay high court judge BG Kolse Patil were among the organisers of this conference to commemorate the bicentenary of the historic Bhima Koregaon victory of the British against the Peshwas.

This victory in January 1818 was possible because of the Mahars (Dalits) in the British forces and this has been commemorated every year as a symbol of Dalit pride at Bhima Koregaon.

According to Pune police, Elgar Parishad was an “anti-fascist” front formed by the Maoists and the decision to form it was taken during a meeting of the Central Committee of the banned CPI (Maoist) in December 2015. Bhardwaj and the four others arrested on Tuesday were closely associated with the Central Committee, the police have alleged.

Significantly, this rally and the events following the Dalit-Maratha caste riots that broke out at Bhima Koregaon in the first week of January 2018 led to Dalit consolidation, especially in Maharashtra.

The alleged penetration of Maoist ideologues and sympathisers into the Dalit movement in Maharashtra and its consolidation post-Bhima Koregaon riots in the run-up to the 2019 elections has emerged as one of the strongest undercurrents in the latest round of arrests.

Within a week of the Bhima Koregaon riots, the police undertook the first round of searches in Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi and Prof Shoma Sen from Nagppur university and four Dalit activists associated with the Elgar Parishad, namely, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale, member of the popular Kabir Kala Manch, a Dalit group of performers who have been charged with Maoist connections in the past. According to joint police commissioner, Ravindra Kadam, incriminating letters recovered from Wilson indicated that there was strong “prima facie evidence” to indicate the “participation and inspiration of Maoists” in the organisation of the Elgar Parishad.

Incidentally, the Dalit-Maratha riots at Bhima Koregaon were triggered by the alleged desecration at the tomb of a Dalit hero (Govind Gopal Mahar) who had performed the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji.

The police had booked Shivjagar Pratisthan president, Sambhaji Bhide, and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti president, Milind Ekbote, in connection with the clashes.

That line of investigation by the Pune Police has taken the back seat with the entire focus shifting to “urban Maoism”, the alleged penetration of Maoists and “Maoist sympathisers” into the Dalit movement in Maharashtra and coordinated action by Pune police in coordination with central intelligence agencies headquartered in Delhi.

First Published: Aug 30, 2018 15:04 IST