The Pune Police at 6-00 am today, 6th June, 2018, arrested Adv Surendra Gadling, General Secretary Indian Association of People’s Lawyers from Nagpur, Prof Shoma Sen, Head of Department of English, Nagpur University, Sudhir Dhawale, Editor Vidrohi from Mumbai, Rona Wilson, Public Relations Secretary Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners and Mahesh Raut, anti-displacement activist from Bharat Jan Andolan and former Fellow at Prime Minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) for Gadchiroli District.
These arrests and searches have been purportedly made under the FIR registered on 8th January, 2018 at Vishram Baug Police Station, Pune with regard to the holding of the Elgar Parishad on 31st December, 2017 by the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan. This FIR, originally registered u/s 153(A), 505 (1)(b), 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), was made a conspiracy case in March 2018 and now has had sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) added to it. The arrests today have thus been made under UAPA, which has several draconian provisions which ensure long detention and makes it difficult to obtain bail.
These arrests are in the face of the mass demand of several political parties and human rights organizations and activists and the Prerna Abhiyan in particular to arrest the leaders of Sangh Parivar organizations, Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who were responsible for the violence on 1st January, 2018 at Bhima-Koregaon. The Phadnavis government, which has been protecting these actual perpetrators of the violence, has been attempting to create a false narrative that the violence at Bhima Koregaon was caused by the Elgar Parishad and that banned Maoist organizations are behind the Prerna Abhiyan.
The Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan is a coalition of around 260 mass organizations under the Chairmanship of Retired Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant and includes prominent political figures like Adv Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bahujan Republican Party (Bharip) and Justice Kolse-Patil (Retd). In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon that vanquished the Peshwa rule, the Abhiyan had organized a mass meeting on 31st December, 2017 at the historic Shaniwar wada in Pune, with several prominent speakers like Retired High Court Justice Kolse Patil, Adv Prakash Ambedkar, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and others. The Elgar Parishad was organised with the stated objective of fighting the Nav-peshwahi. The program was hugely successful and attended by thousands from across the state. However on the following day, those commemorating the event at Bhima-Koregaon were attacked by a mob carrying saffron flags and instigated by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, two right wing activists who are closely connected with the ruling BJP and this attack was part of a pre-meditated plan.
The entire operation has been stage-managed by the Maharashtra government keeping in mind the judicial enquiry headed by Justice J N Patel (Retd) in order to ensure that submissions from the victims of the Hindutva and State violence are suppressed. It has also been done to queer the pitch for the forthcoming elections in the State as well as 2019. The BJP government is desperate to create a reign of terror in order to polarize the dalit and bahujan votes. And also to create a terror narrative thereby protecting the real terror culprits Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote who will ensure votes for the BJP.
CPDR strongly condemns this open show of State terror and complete bypassing of the Rule of Law by the BJP governments in the State and the Centre and demands the immediate release of Advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut forthwith .
Dr Anand Teltumde (6th June 2018)
Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights,