Over 30 organisations and local residents have joined hands to form ‘Rise against Fascism’, a forum to mark their protest against the arrests of five civil rights activists by Pune City Police. The forum has also released a certificate of (dis) honour over the action of the police which, it said, has “framed the most baseless, fabricated and politically motivated set of legal charges”. “The fact is that all these persons have been fighting for the rights of Dalits, Adivasis, farmers, workers and deprived sections of our society, and have raised their voices loud and clear against the anti-people policies of the government. These arrests have been made to suppress their opinions, and also to send out a warning to other like-minded individuals who are critical of the government,” said Milind Chavan, one of the convenors of the Forum and coordinator of the Democracy Festival Committee.
A day after they held protests outside the Pune district collectorate, members of the Forum released a certificate of (dis) honour, which said Pune City Police had “succeeded in framing the most outstandingly false charges” against the activists. Kiran Moghe, a convener of the forum and secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said several democratic and secular organisations have come together to condemn the police action. “We are also planning to hold a public meeting on September 4,” she said.
Members of the forum also released a statement, alleging that the role of the Sanatan Sanstha had come to the fore during the investigation into the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. They said one of the objectives of these arrests was to divert people’s attention away from these developments, and to sidetrack the investigation into the involvement of Sanatan Sanstha. The Forum has demanded the withdrawal of the “false cases” against the rights activists, as well as the arrest of Sambhaji Bhide.
Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide are facing charges of orchestrating the violence that broke out in villages near Pune on January 1, which claimed one life. “…Ekbote has been released on bail with relatively minor charges, while Bhide has not even been arrested. On the contrary, a baseless charge has been levelled, that the peaceful and democratic Elgaar Parishad held in Pune on December 31 was responsible for the riots, and that the activists who have been recently arrested are somehow connected with this violence,” said Suniti S R, a member of the forum.