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Koregaon Bhima violence case: Ramdas Athawale slams activists’ arrest, says don’t call them Naxalites

Ramdas Athawale said police should investigate the role of Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide for allegedly instigating the violence against Dalits on January 1.

Written by Shalini Nair | New Delhi |
Updated: June 8, 2018 8:48:44 am
TISS protests, Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Ramdas Athawale, Tiss students protest, Indian Express Ramdas Athawale addresses the press at Sahyadri Guest House on Saturday. (Express photo by Janak Rathod)

SPEAKING OUT against the arrests this week in the Koregaon-Bhima case in BJP-ruled Maharashtra, NDA ally and Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale has said that it is not right to arrest Dalit rights activists after labelling them as Naxalites. Instead, he said, police should investigate the role of Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide for allegedly instigating the violence against Dalits on January 1.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the RPI(A) leader said: “There should have been no arrests of Dalits in the Koregaon-Bhima matter. It is not right to term the Ambedkarite activists as Naxalites so as to take legal action against them.”

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Athawale said he would officially discuss the issue with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. “If there has been injustice done to them, I will extend any kind of help that I can,” he said.

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Maharashtra Police had earlier booked upper-caste leaders Bhide and Milind Ekbote for inciting violence against the Dalits gathered to mark the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in Pune on January 1.

Professor Shoma Sen at her home in Nagpur before her arrest Wednesday. (Photo: Monica Chaturvedi)

The investigations have now changed track with the police Wednesday making five arrests of persons they described as “top urban Maoist operatives”.

READ | Koregaon Bhima violence case: ‘Everybody is asking questions, I just know he kept to himself’

Three of them were prominent Dalit rights activists, including Sudhir Dhawale, the leader of Mumbai-based Republican Panthers Jati Antachi Chalwal (RP), Nagpur-based advocate Surendra Gadling, and Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson.

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Two other Left-leaning leaders — Nagpur University Professor Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut, a former Prime Minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) Fellow — were also arrested. Dhawale was also the organiser of the Elgaar Parishad held in Pune in the run-up to the bi-centennial celebration — the gathering is now being blamed by police for inciting the violence.

Police outside the Nagpur residence of Professor Shoma Sen on Wednesday. She was one of the five arrested in connection with Bhima Koregaon caste violence case. (Photo: Monica Chaturvedi)

“There is no relation between Elgaar Parishad and violence during the celebrations. I fail to understand how the police has linked the two. The police should instead further investigate the role of Sambhaji Bhide in the whole incident. The Home department says there is no proof against him. But I feel that no one is greater than the law,” said Athawale.

READ | Koregaon Bhima violence case: Dalit rights activists among five held for alleged Maoist links

He accused Bhide of making several inflammatory speeches even after the incident for which the law can take its course. “In a speech in Nandurbar, he said that there is nothing like Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava (equal respect to all religions). This amount to speaking out against the Constitution, and the police can act against him. Samaj mein vivaad paida karne waala bhashaan ke upar karyavahi honi chahiye. Sambhaji Bhide ke upar karyavahi karni chahiye (Action should be taken against those who create strife in society. Action should be taken against Sambhaji Bhide),” he said.

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