Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Maharashtra Police swoops down on Dalit activists


PUNE (MUMBAI): The Maharashtra Police carried out multi-city raids against prominent Dalit activists and supporters in a fallout of the January 1 caste riots in Koregaon-Bhima, official sources said here.

The raids which started around 5 a.m. were carried out by several teams of the Pune police at the homes and offices of various Dalit activists in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur in an attempt to unravel alleged links with Maoists in these urban centres.

A raid was also carried out at the residence of activist Rona Wilson in New Delhi. Besides, the police also zeroed in on those involved or connected with the Elgaar Conference of December 31, 2017 held in Pune which was addressed by Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid, Chhattisgarh activist Soni Sori and Bhim Army President Vinay Ratan Singh.

The police also raided and searched the home of prominent lawyer Surendra Gadling in Nagpur. He was representing several alleged Maoists in different courts, including the former Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba. Searches continued at the premises of the Leftist organisation Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) and Republican Panthers Party in connection with the Elgaar Conference and other leaders like Ramesh Gaychor and Sagar Gorkhe.

In Mumbai, searches were carried out at the residences of Left activists Sudhir Dhawale, Harshali Potdar and Jyoti Jagtap. The police produced search warrants at all the places and carried away laptops, literature and pamphlets.

The raids followed a complaint registered against the KKM and other activists for organising the Elgaar Conference. Reacting sharply to the police action, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh President Prakash Ambedkar termed it "harassment and diversionary tactics" by the government. "Instead of arresting Sambhaji Bhide, alias Guruji, the main culprit who fuelled the Koregaon-Bhima riots, the government is indulging in these diversions.

"Police have already arrested Milind Ekbote, but not Bhide. The police must declare what evidence they have found against these people," said Ambedkar, grandson of B.R. Ambedkar, chief architect of the Indian Constitution.

Republican Dalit Panthers Party President Sumedh Jadhav said the raids "are a serious matter" and expressed apprehension that the police are likely to arrest many activists involved with the Elgaar Conference. Ambedkar had met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on several occasions demanding Bhide's arrest, but the state government later gave a clean chit to the Hindutva leader in the matter.

The Elgaar Conference was held in Pune's Shaniwarwada, later Koregaon-Bhim witnessed riots on January 1 which left one dead, followed by the retaliatory Maharashtra shutdown call issued by Ambedkar and other parties on January 3.


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