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Forty months spent at Nagpur prison in the company of over 60 tribal and Dalit youths, all booked in various cases of alleged Naxal activities, Sudhir Dhawale wants to pursue his unfinished dream — To relaunch a well-networked agitation against caste atrocities in the state.
Dhawale, a Dalit activist and editor of Vidrohi magazine which openly criticised the state over cases of social inequalities, was arrested on January 2, 2011.
Police said Dhawale was involved in Naxal activities in Maharashtra.
He was, however, acquitted last week by Gondia’s sessions court after police failed to produce substantial evidence against him.
Most of the books seized from his residence in Byculla were available online or in the market, the court observed.
“I was under police scanner since 2006, in the post-Khairlanji phase, where activists and intellectuals came together and questioned the state. It was after a long time that Dalits had begun organising. Our agitations resonated in the remotest areas. They began arresting us (Dalits) in false cases,” claims Dhawale. In the Khairlanji massacre on September 2006, a Dalit family was wiped out by dominant caste villagers.
Dhawale had launched a political front, Republican Panther, on December 6, 2007. The front’s mandate was to construct a common political platform for Dalits.
“We had decided to intervene in every case of atrocity across the state. Agitation and protesting was not enough, our aim was to build a mass base and ensure the government was held responsible each time a Dalit basti was burnt, a Dalit youth was killed or a Dalit woman was sexually assaulted,” Dhawale said.
Dhawale’s release comes at a time when the incidents of caste-related atrocities have increased greatly in the state. Last month, a 17- year old Dalit boy was killed in Ahmednagar for falling in love with a girl from a dominant caste. A Dalit sarpanch was killed in Jalna district for allegedly opposing political activists from dominant caste.
“But dissenting voices are stifled. We rarely see the oppressed caste fight back. Sustained agitation that we saw post-Khairlanji is no more a common sight. Many of us who participated in protest rallies then (post-Khairlanji) have been booked in cases. We were labelled as ‘Naxals’. I want to go back to those activists, youths, and relaunch our struggle,” Dhawale said.
Dhawale was booked for conspiring and waging war against the nation. However, later he was tried only under the conspiracy charge.
In an over-100 page judgement delivered by sessions judge R G Asmar, the judge has pointed out discrepancies in the investigation and lack of substantial evidence.