MUMBAI/PUNE: In a crackdown at dawn, a Pune police team on Wednesday arrested Ambedkarite activist-editor Sudhir Dhawale in Mumbai along with four other dalit activists in Delhi and Nagpur.
They were arrested for their alleged links to Naxals and their role in organising the Elgaar Parishad to commemorate the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in December last year, where socially-divisive speeches were made.
However, the arrests have come in for criticism from many quarters. Members of the Elgaar Parishad organising committee condemned the arrests, saying the state government was creating a new narrative of urban naxalism in its efforts to protect the real culprits, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote.
Republican leader Prak-ash Ambedkar called it the government’s attempt to divert attention from right wing activist Sambhaji Bhide.
“This arrest is part of government’s constant attempt to save the main culprit. We have been saying this that Bhide is the mastermind of the attack on Dalits gathered at Koregaon Bhima on June 1. We have submitted the proofs of Facebook posts of his supporters inviting others to come at place on January 1. But ignoring that, police are arresting people who have no connection with this incident,” he said.
At a press conference in Pune on Wednesday, Jyoti Jagtap from the Kabir Kala Manch said, “The state has instituted a judicial committee to investigate the Bhima-Koregoan violence and that committee will work till June 11. But before the committee could present its report, the police has begun arresting activists.” Ramesh Gaichor, a member of the Elgar Parisad organising committee, said, “The chief minister, who represents fascist ideology, is misleading people.” Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani tweeted, “While dalit activists have been booked under UAPA, the main culprit, Manohar Bhide roams scot free’.”
Besides Dhawale, the others arrested included, human rights lawyer Surendra Gadling, activists Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen from Nagpur, and activist Rona Wilson from New Delhi.