Bhima Koregaon violence that shook the country in January 2018 is again making headlines after Pune police arrested five rights activists and raided homes in several cities. The houses of seven prominent activists including Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bhardwaj, Stan Swamy, Varavara Rao, Kranti, and Naseem were searched by the Pune police early Tuesday morning.
The arrests have been made with an allegation of nexus with the Maoists and inciting Bhima Koregaon violence on January 01.
What is Bhima Koregaon?
Bhima Koregaon is a panchayat village in Pune district of Maharashtra. This village has an association with the history of Maratha. On January 01, 1818, Mahar soldiers of the East India Company defeated the Peshwa army in the leadership of Britishers. Since then, this battle holds a special place in Dalit history. Dalits take this victory as a triumph over Brahman Peshwas and the suppressions from them.
How does Bhima Koregaon celebrate January 01?
The Ambedkar Dalits congregate on January 01 every year in Bhima Koregaon to pay respect at the Vijay Sthamb that was built in the memory of battle fighters of 1818. The pillar has names of the Dalit fighters carved on it.
Story of January 2018
Dalits had gathered to commemorate the 200th anniversary of their victory over Brahmanical Peshwas while a violent clash erupted between Dalits and Maratha groups allegedly supported by Sabhaji Bhide’s org groups following which at least one person died and several got injured. This year the crowd was larger to mark the 200th anniversary. Many groups of Dalits and Bahujans organised a public conference united in the name of Elgar Parishad at Shaniwar Wada, which was the seat of the Peshwas until 1818.
This conference was significantly aimed at Hindutva politics with a face of neo-peshwai. An invitation to Jignesh Mevani and Prakash Ambedkar was also given. The Dalits had brought the two (Hindutva and Peshwai) on the same stage, which had annoyed the right-wing forces. This became a reason behind the dispute of January 01, 2018.
Events that occurred before January 01, 2018
According to reports a couple of days before the New Year, a board was witnessed near the tomb of Govind Gopal Mahar that is situated 5 Km away from Bhima Koregaon. The board read Mahars did the last rites of Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj defying the orders of the Mughals. While the locals believe that the Marathas performed the last rites of the king. This becomes another matter of contention between the two groups. However, the matter was solved with police’s intervention.
Report that the Coordination Committee prepared
The report formed by the Coordination Committee to assist police in the investigation terms it a planned attack. It has referred to several shreds of evidence that prove that the clash was caused because of a series of provocations by the Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote and the followers of Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’.
Why are the Human Rights Activists arrested?
The arrests of the prominent activists were made under IPC Section 153 (A), which related to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place or birth, residence, language and committing acts prejudicial to social harmony.
What is activists’ take on the arrests?
Arundhati Roy condemned the arrests of social activists made by the administration and said, “the simultaneous state-wide arrests are a dangerous sign of a government that fears it is losing its mandate and is falling into a panic. That lawyers, poets, writers, Dalit rights activists and intellectuals are being arrested on ludicrous charges… while those who makeup lynch mobs and threaten and murder people in broad daylight roam free, tells us very clearly where India is headed.”