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Archives for : September2018

Three Young Lawyers – The Sudha Bharadwaj I know

Three young lawyers on the arrested Chhattisgarh-based lawyer and activist.

Published: September 6, 2018 12:33:21 am

Sudha Bharadwaj, elgaar parishad, activists, activists arrest, maharashtra, maoist, urban naxal, india news, indian express

Lawyer-activist Sudha BharadwajI must confess at the outset that before meeting Sudha Bharadwaj, I didn’t know much about her. This, perhaps, was for the best because it allowed me to form an opinion of her based on what I personally experienced and not what I had been told.

One of the first things which struck me about her is her simplicity and clarity. She speaks from her heart and means what she says. There is no artifice.

The Bilaspur home and office embody this spirit. There is no rigid hierarchy and people work as per their area of expertise, leading to a true sharing of knowledge. Sudha ji, I realised, has no false pride and wouldn’t think twice before asking her junior or even an intern about a doubt. She is open to inputs from anyone and encourages everyone to think independently. This open flow of ideas has created a harmonious and vibrant office. This open flow is also visible in her interactions with the villagers, workers who come to her seeking help. Unlike other offices, the people do not feel alienated but freely voice their concerns and are active participants in their legal journey.

Law offices tend to become depressing and monotonous spaces, where drafting, filing and arguing take precedence over the person’s well being. However, that is not the case with Sudha ji or her offices. People talk freely about the rigours of litigation and the non-judgemental aura allows people to take breaks when needed and set the pace of their work. A novelty in today’s rat race.

One of the other aspects about her is the respect she has earned from her peers. I remember once while in the high court, we met an advocate who, on learning I was with her office, remarked that I was fortunate to learn from one of the most ethical lawyers. He candidly admitted that most lawyers take up briefs purely for monetary reasons but not Sudha. She is guided by principles of justice or nyaya rather than money.

Law is often referred to as a noble profession and it is because of people like Sudha Bharadwaj that it continues to be so. — Parijata Bharadwaj, Advocate, Supreme Court

***

I started my law school journey in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, at a time when the human rights situation there was rapidly deteriorating. I wanted to use the lessons learnt in my classes to stand with the indigenous communities fighting for their rights. When I asked around for people I can work with, I was told by everybody to contact Sudha ji. It didn’t take me long to understand why. On my first meeting with Sudha ji, I asked her about the competing narratives regarding the condition of indigenous communities in Bastar. Her reply left a deep impact on me: “For a pedestrian on a narrow lane, the car driver is causing the trouble. For the car driver, the pedestrian is the nuisance. Your perspectives change based on where you are placed.” That was my first lesson in understanding my own caste and class privilege.

Seeing Sudha ji go about her work, I learnt the importance of listening to your client rather than sermonising, especially when it involves people from marginalised sections. She has a strong commitment to respecting the agency of her clients and not appropriating their voices. Decisions are, therefore, always based on consensus and consent. Her commitment to her clients and dedication to the law hold important lessons for all lawyers.

I often wonder how through all the troubles and disappointments, that smile never leaves her face. One could see it even in the pictures of her arrest. It is a reflection of her love for her work, her refusal to give up hope despite the odds. I feel privileged that I had the chance to get my first lessons in social justice practice from her. As we fight this renewed state oppression, her smile will be our guiding light. — Guneet Ahuja, Advocate, Delhi.

***

I got to know Sudha Bhardwaj during my internship with her and remained in touch after. She has been a constant source of support, inspiration and guidance. I remember being under a lot of pressure to take up a job in a progressive rights-based NGO after my graduation from TISS, but I also wanted to be in Goa (where my home is) and make a living. The only opening in Goa was with an NGO which implemented CSR work and I was selected and did not know what to do.

I was very scared of being isolated by those with whom I shared my principles, as working in that organisation to me felt like I had made a compromise with my values — wanting to work for the people on the ground. But it was Sudha ji who comforted me and understood my situation. It meant a lot at that time. I learnt friendship and solidarity from her even though the choices we sometimes make don’t fit our framework of values. She never made me feel left out or guilty but understood the compulsions and practicality of life. — V Sawarkar, 
Advocate, Goa

The Sudha Bharadwaj I know

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UN Scientific Paper Suggests Capitalism Has to Die in Order for the Planet to Be Saved

capitalism

(EDITOR’S NOTE, 8/28/18, 3:34 PM ETThis headline was amended from “UN Scientific Paper Says Capitalism Has to Die in Order for the Planet to Be Saved” to “UN Scientific Paper Suggests Capitalism Has to Die in Order for the Planet to Be Saved.”)

Capitalism and global sustainability are incongruous with one another, according to a recent paper for the UN’s 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report.

The team of researchers from various academic institutions throughout Finland who wrote the report gave a sobering assessment of the planet’s future if the current economic order continues unabated. Namely, that all rich Western countries have based their societies on an abundance of cheap energy, which the scientists say is no longer a reality.

“Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use,” the paper reads. “[D]ominant economic theories as well as policy-related economic modeling rely on the presupposition of continued energetic and material growth. The theories and models anticipate only incremental changes in the existing economic order. Hence, they are inadequate for explaining the current turmoil.”

Scientists argued that worsening climate change is having a drastic impact on ecosystems and biodiversity, and that symptoms of unchecked capitalism like rising inequality, unemployment, and debt are also contributing to the destabilization of society. In order to guarantee that humanity is able to have a good quality of life on earth for future generations, the paper’s authors argued that new economic systems will have to be created, rather than the standard band-aid approach governments have taken in the recent past.

“Central banks in the US and the Eurozone have resorted to unconventional measures such as negative interest rates and buying up significant amounts of public debt,” researchers wrote. “This has relieved some economic pressure, but … It can be safely said that no widely applicable economic models have been developed specifically for the upcoming era.”

While the paper didn’t endorse any specific economic system to be used in lieu of capitalism, scientists said it would necessary to “transform the ways in which energy, transport, food, and housing are produced and consumed” with the goal of attaining “production and consumption that provides decent opportunities for a good life while dramatically reducing the burden on natural ecosystems.”

Early in the paper, researchers said it would be necessary to implement a global Marshall plan, as Harvard University atmospheric chemistry professor James Anderson proposed earlier this year. Ideally, such a plan would mean cooperation between countries around the globe to collectively restructure society with the end goal of eliminating carbon dioxide emissions entirely. Researchers gave a deadline for the United States and Europe to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2040, and for the rest of the world to be at zero emissions by 2050.

In order to meet this goal, however, scientists cast doubt on the ability of renewable energy sources to be able to sustain humanity’s current energy consumption rate.

The only viable solution to attain a goal of zero emissions is, according to the paper, for humanity to use substantially less energy. Scientists are calling on state governments with forward-thinking leaders to test radical solutions at the macro level, like a job guarantee — similar to what Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has proposed in the past.

“The most suitable jobs for the program would be those that almost anyone can do with limited training. The jobs could be modeled to serve the transition to sustainability and to build capacities to adapt to climate change: for example, installing decentralized energy solutions and preparing for floods,” scientists wrote. “In addition to triggering the transition, the job guarantee would ensure full employment. It would lessen insecurity and the need to compete for environmentally destructive jobs on the individual and the collective level.”

Researchers’ ideas for how to phase out capitalism will likely be included in the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Report, which will come out in 2019. Read the full paper here.

 

Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.

UN Scientific Paper Suggests Capitalism Has to Die in Order for the Planet to Be Saved

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None of us are free till all of us are free: Why the 377 verdict is important for all Indians

by- Chayanika Shah

Many of us scattered across the globe today know what it feels like when a long quarter century battle reaches a resolution. After the jolt from the earlier Supreme Court bench of 2013, to hear today “The decision in Kaushal today stand overruled”, this is what keeps many of us veterans of long struggles going. Small victories along the side as we tread the path toward living a life with the motto “None of us are free till all of us are free.”


What we get today from the constitutional bench is not a small victory though. In the direction of realisation of queer rights within which decriminalisation of certain sexual acts is one necessary but far from sufficient step, it is a big victory. It is also a huge step towards assurance in the solidity of the Constitution, towards a belief that the Constitution is a dynamic document which has to be interpreted with changing times, and a clear indication that the courts duty is to protect the rights of minorities, however miniscule they might be. 


And these assurances are very essential in today’s India in which lynching is a norm, attack on certain religions, thoughts, and assertions is being normalised, dissent is being quashed and freedoms challenged in the name of national integration and identity. We are facing a liberalised economy where fewer and fewer people have the means to survive, where people are losing access to all natural resources and where the welfare state is slowly and steadily turning into a police state that may call upon every dissenting person with the knock on the door. A constitutional validation from the highest court in times such as these, needs celebration from all citizens.

We got into discussions around 377 way back in the early 90s when the ABVA filed its petition and the discussions on child sexual abuse and the amendments to 375 and 376 restarted. In 1995 we did our first signature campaign asking for the reading down of 377. From there to the Bharosa protests and other happenings over the last 25 years that this case has travelled across courts in Delhi, our life as activists working for queer rights within a feminist and human rights framework have also simultaneously continued.

A quarter century is a long time and like any legal battle, this has its ups and downs, twists and turns. It has been an important part of the queer rights movement but it is just one part of what are rights for queer people and even a smaller part of the spectrum of what are queer rights per se. It has been a way of bringing together many of us and it has also been a way of opening many discussions – in the media, in homes, in schools and colleges, on streets, in marches, in film festivals, in cultural programmes, and in every place that one can think of. Everyone today knows of the battle of 377 because there were many efforts made to have these conversations.

As the judicial battle continued, the world around and within us has also changed. Different identities are now recognised and so are different realities. We are still unravelling the full meanings of queerness even as we continue to fight our queer battles.

For some queer is just a lifestyle choice whereas for others it is questioning of every normativity. For some the struggle is to just become or assert that we are like every one else and for others it is not only about not getting subsumed in the normative but also of challenging every kind of normativity including that which may emerge in the queer world. For some the rest of the struggles were not really “ours”, for others there was no queer struggle without actually including other struggles for rights, justice, and equality. For some the capitalist project was what made their liberal lifestyle possible, for others this was what broke the back of many queer people trying to survive on the streets and without any social capital to back them.

And so of course as we imbibe the full potential of all that has been said in the voluminous judgement of the Supreme Court and as we figure out what are the full implications of this massive victory, we know that today the heart rejoices once again. What was ours for ever is ours again. There is a recognition of the wrongs done to various people who may have lived in shame and dread and fear and many who did not survive. This was a legal fight for the queer people of today and the future, but also our reparation to the many that went unsung. The words of each of the judges today offer some healing to our hearts and beings. They also provide the much needed strength to continue these struggles that go on for our freedoms are connected to the freedoms of all.

And finally, those in power and in powerful positions have rarely given us such joy as the Constitutional Bench gave today. We fully appreciate the flavour of this victory, because so much has been taken away, is being taken away every moment otherwise. We wouldn’t mind getting these pleasures more often. (Just saying since the Constitutional bench is adjudicating on many matters right now.) After all, the essence of queerness lies in acknowledging pleasure!

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Gujarat -Surat MC uses Aadhaar to track down, punish stray cattle owners #WTFnews

Surat MC uses Aadhaar to track down, punish stray cattle owners
TECH-LING THE MENACE

Ahmedabad, September 9

In a bid to curb the stray cattle menace, mostly cows, roaming on the city streets, the Surat Municipal Corporation has developed a system of ear-tagging such animals and linking it with the Aadhaar number of their owners.

Each ear-tag carries a Cattle Registration Number (CRN) that is linked with the Aadhaar number of the owner. It helps the SMC identify, trace and penalise the owners for letting their cattle wander on the streets and cause inconvenience to people, he said.

The civic body has so far pinned plastic tags with serial numbers to the ears of around 25,000 stray animals and linked them with the Aadhaar numbers of around 1,500 cattle owners, said SMC Market Superintendent Dr Praful Mehta. He said that using the number tagged on the ears of the bovines, the civic authorities can trace their owners easily, as the latter’s phone number and address are registered in the database.

“Cattle owners do not come to us voluntarily to get their animals ear-tagged. Therefore, whenever we catch a stray animal, we ear-tag it and give a CRN. Then, when the owner comes to collect his cattle, we register his details and link it with the CRN. If he does not have Aadhaar, we use other documents,” Mehta said.

The SMC impounds around 70 cattle daily, imposing a fine of Rs 1,800 for the first day —Rs 200 for ear-tagging, Rs 1,000 for impound fee and Rs 650 each day towards maintenance charges. — PTI

 

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Pune Police Is Diverting The Bhima Koregaon Investigation, Protecting Bhide, Ekbote: Deputy Mayor Siddharth Dhende

The Caravan publishes report of police-appointed committee, headed by Dhende, that finds Hindutva outfits “pre-planned” the Bhima Koregaon violence

By TUSHA MITTAL | 

On 1 January this year, Dalits from across India gathered in Bhima Koregaon, a village 30 kilometers from Pune, to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of a historic battle that took place in the village in 1818. The battle had culminated in the victory of a small British battalion, largely comprising soldiers from the oppressed Mahar caste, over an army of dominant-caste Peshwas. On the 200th anniversary, as lakhs marched towards the Koregaon Ranstambh, or Vijay Stambh—a memorial pillar erected by the British to commemorate the battle—mobs of people carrying saffron flags attacked the predominantly Dalit gathering.

In the days that followed, the police registered multiple complaints and first information reports, each with competing narratives about the origins of the violence. In early January, the Pune Rural Police appointed a ten-member fact-finding committee, headed by the city’s deputy mayor, Siddharth Dhende, to inquire into the violence and the events leading up to it. Over a span of ten days, the committee visited Bhima Koregaon and nearby villages, interviewing eyewitnesses, victims, journalists who were present in the area, and local residents. They collected evidence such as individual testimonies, audio-visual proof—including recordings of phone calls and videos from the day of the violence—and messages circulated on Facebook and Whatsapp. The committee submitted a detailed report to the police on 20 January.

The report identifies two Pune-based Hindutva leaders—Milind Ekbote and Manohar Bhide—as the  “main conspirators” behind the violence, supported by other local leaders across party affiliations. These findings corroborate an earlier complaint filed by Anita Sawale, a resident of Pune and an eyewitness to the violence. Sawale’s complaint, on the basis of which the police registered an FIR on 2 January, stated that Ekbote and Bhide were responsible for the violence.

The contents of the fact-finding committee’s report assume significance in the wake of recent arrests of prominent civil-rights activists, lawyers and writers—allegedly in connection to the violence on 1 January—which has brought Bhima Koregaon back into the spotlight. The police have claimed that the arrested individuals are Maoists responsible for funding and instigating the violence that took place on 1 January. However, the fact-finding committee’s report contradicts the police narrative about the events leading up to the violence at Bhima Koregaon.

The report is a scathing indictment of both Bhide and Ekbote, of local Hindutva groups, and of the Pune Police. Based on eyewitness accounts that speak of kerosene filled in water tractors and “sticks and swords hidden” in a tea stall the night before, the report explicitly describes what took place in Bhima Koregaon as a “pre-planned attack.” The report explains the day-to-day incidents in the build-up to the 1 January violence, identifies specific individuals involved in it, and describes how pleas for help by local residents—including the minister of state for social justice Dilip Kamble—were ignored by the police and by state ministers.

Soon after it was submitted, the Pune Rural Police denied the committee’s findings. They have also sincemade little progress in the investigation of Sawale’s complaint, despite supporting evidence submitted by the police-commissioned fact-finding committee.Instead, the police has been acting on another FIR,registered following a complaint by Tushar Damgude, a businessman in Pune, on 9 January—eight days after the violence broke out. Damgude, who is a follower of Sambhaji Bhide, claimed that the Bhima Koregaon violence was a result of provocative speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad, a mass public meeting conducted on 31 December 2017, organised primarily by two retired judges of the higher judiciary.

Though the recent wave of arrests are in relation to Damgude’s FIR, only one of the ten people arrested so far is even named in the FIR—Sudhir Dhawale, another of the organisers of the Elgar Parishad. Meanwhile, the investigation into the role of the Hindutva leaders in provoking the violence appears to be sluggish. Milind Ekbote is out on bail and the police have said they will not press charges against Bhide. An answer to the sluggish investigation into their role in the Bhima Koregaon violence perhaps lies in their backgrounds. Ekbote is a former BJP corporator, who founded the Shiv Jagar Pratishtan, while Bhide is a former RSS worker, and founder of the Hindu Janajagran Samiti, with a large following in Maharashta and across the country—including the prime minister Narendra Modi, who has publicly referred to him as “Guruji.”

The committee’s report states that the police “deliberately failed” to curb the violence, and that that some policemen in civil clothes marched alongside the mobs that carried saffron flags. It further notes that as “Hindutvawadi crowds” approached the Vijay Stambh, a few people shouted, “Don’t worry, the police is on our side.” In view of this, the committee recommended that the police should not conduct the investigation, and that it should be carried out by a Special Investigation Team. The Pune Rural Police did not respond to several requests for a comment on the committee’s report. Both the Pune inspector general of police, Vishwas Nangre-Patil, and the superintendent of police, Sandeep Patil, did not return calls or respond to messages.

Though the findings of the committee could not be independently verified, given the gravity of the conclusions in the report and in view of the larger public interest, The Caravan is releasing the original Marathi report along with an English translation. In addition, over a series of phone conversations in early September, Tusha Mittal, an assistant editor at The Caravan, spoke to Siddharth Dhende, who headed the fact-finding committee. Dhende, a member of the Republican Party of India (Athawale), which is in coalition with the BJP in Mahrashtra, is the deputy mayor of Pune elected on a BJP ticket. Dhende rejected the Maharashta police’s claims of Naxal involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence, and stated that Hindutva groups had instigated caste tensions in the area ahead of the 1 January event. When asked about the police response to the report, he said, “There is pressure from the government, because this report totally goes against saffron groups and the people with a Hindutva agenda.”

Tusha Mittal: What is the context in which your fact-finding took place? What was your mandate?
Siddharth Dende: After the violence in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January, there was agitation by Ambedkarite groups all over Maharashtra, in districts, villages and towns. In that context, [the inspector general of police of Maharashtra’s Kolhapur Range] Mr Nangre Patil held a meeting with Dalit activists at the SP’s office in Pune. Nearly 200–250 Dalit organisations and their leaders were present. I was also there.
In that meeting, the Dalit activists were demanding that the police arrest Mr Bhide and Mr Ekbote. To cool the activists down, they said you people make a committee, [to find] whatever facts there are, because there were multiple videos, photos, audios.
So ten of us formed an informal committee. We went to Bhima Koregaon, Vadu gaon, Sanaswadi, and the nearby villages. There we met all the critical persons, press reporters, gram panchayats members, police officials and the common public—not only Dalit but also non-Dalit people. We interviewed nearly 400 eyewitnesses. All the [information about the] incidents we got, and nearly 200–250 photos, videos, audio clips we collected, we submitted to the police.

TM: Based on your investigation, what happened on 1 January and the events leading up to it? What was the main trigger?
SD: We came to a conclusion that this particular riot was a pre-planned one. The Elgar Parishad took place on the evening of 31 [December] in Pune city, near Shaniwar Vada, but the riot took place on 1 [January]. It wasn’t an incidental thing. It was totally a conspiracy by people and organisations with a Hindutva agenda. This was not a dangal, this was a pre-planned attack on Ambedkarite and Dalit groups who were going to collect in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January.
The Dalit commemoration [of the battle at Bhima Koregaon] was hurting the sentiments of upper-caste Hindus who dispute their version of history. People like Bhide, Ekbote, and other Hindutvawadi groups have been trying their best to wipe out this history and spread falsehood in mind of young people. These incidents were orchestrated to destroy the bicentennial [celebration] of this history.
A few days before 1 January, a controversy stirred up after a banner was put up in Vadu gaon, three kilometres from Bhima Koregaon, related to the Mahar community’s version of history. [The Vadu Khurd village is home to the samadhi, or final resting place, of Sambhaji Bhosale, the son of the Maratha king Shivaji, and Govind Gaikwad, who the Mahar community believes conducted Sambhaji’s final rites.] The banner was torn by Hindutva groups in the village. Following this, an FIR was lodged and 49 people were booked under the SC-ST act.  This caused resentment and outrage among Savarna Hindu groups. They conspired against Dalits and planned the entire incident.

TM: The police have claimed that provocative speeches made during the Elgar Parishad led to the violence, but your report says that a plan to create the violence existed much before the Elgar Parishad meeting. What evidence did you find and submit to support this?
SD: 
We found no evidence that connects Elgar Parishad to the 1 January violence.
The Elgar Parishad happened on 31 December, but there were plans to create disorder much before that. The evidence we found is from 25 December onwards, and some even earlier. Messages were circulating on Whatsapp and Facebook that on 1 January, “we have to gather against Dalit activists, we have to come together in Vadu gaon and teach them a lesson, we have to retaliate”—we have submitted these findings to police.
Then, there was a bandh called. In order to ensure that Dalit groups don’t get any food or water, or any facilities [when they come to Bhima Koregaon for the bicentenniary celebrations], a formal bandh was called by the gram panchayats in writing. You can’t do that.
The police knew about these grievances, they knew that lakhs of people will collect in Bhima Koregaon and that something will happen on 1 January, but they did not take any precautionary measures.
On 1 January, mobs holding saffron flags gathered in Vadu gaon. They could have been stopped there itself, but again, the police did not do anything. The mob shouted Hindutva slogans and walked three kilometres to Nagarpur, where the Bhima Koregaon statue is situated. On the Nagarpur highway, they started pelting stones on people who were coming from all over Maharashtra for the 1 January event. All the Ambedkarite people who were visiting Bhima Koregaon were attacked. Women, senior citizens and children were attacked. Thousands of cars and two-wheelers and three-wheelers were broken and burnt. Stones and lathis rained down on people.
This particular attack was pre-planned. If you see on the roads, the stone pelting was taking place from the roof. In the videos too, you can see local residents standing on the top of their houses, on the roof, and pelting stones. How can it take place from the roof unless you go up with stones to the terrace?
There were also stocks of kerosene, and house of Dalits were burnt. One local shopkeeper, Mr Athavale, in Sanswadi [village], was called by a local village leader and told, “Please run away, because your house will be burnt.” How did they know this? In another incident, the house of a local, Mr Sakat, was burnt, not on 1 January, but the day after, on 2 January, because he belongs to the [Scheduled Caste] community, and because he was helping women and senior citizens escape during the violence the previous day.

TM: Who are the main perpetrators and organisations behind the violence? What was the involvement of Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote?
SD: In terms of the organisations and people involved, Milind Ekbote’s name is completely there. The main perpetrators were Ekbote—and Bhide, indirectly—but Ekbote I can say directly. We are damn sure that he is connected to the riot. Every amavasya—[the night of the new moon as per the lunar calendar]—Ekbote comes to the samadhiof Sambhaji Maharaj in Vadu gaon and has meetings. He comes only during night hours. He has his own organisation in these particular villages, where he is inciting hatred against Dalits for many years now.He has youngster groups where he is having mind-changing vocabulary, and making the youth to go against Dalit organisations.
This year, a few days before the January 1 gathering, in the same Bhima Koregaon village where the violence happened, Ekbote held press conferences to tell people that the history of January 1 is wrong. He said that 1 January should be observed as a black day. The notes he sent to local reporters before the press conference are available. What is the purpose of going to Bhima Koregoan itself and holding such a press conference there? What is the intention? It clearly shows that he wants to change the history, to show that it is impossible that a Dalit could have conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj. The intention was to create friction between Marathas and Dalits and he was indirectly successful in it.
The people who participated in the violence are under Ekbote’s leadership, they are members and cadres of his organisation. People from Ekbote’s group—Anil Ghuge and Somnath Bhandare—were the ones who did the work of collecting and organising the mobs, and making speeches against Dalits.

TM: The report also states that an attack was planned for 1 January, under the watch of two persons, Rahul Hargude and Datta Hargude. Who are they?
SD: 
They are the local Shiv Sena leaders in the village. They are attached with Bhide and Ekbote’s Hindutva groups.

TM: Do Bhidhe and Ekbote’s Hindutva organisations have membership across political parties? 
SD: Yes. In Maharashtra, Mr Bhide’s followers are from all the parties. Both NCP and BJP are also there. Both their followers and members cut across party lines.

TM: The report also mentions the involvement of local leaders across political parties. Could you specify?
SD:Politically, NCP is there in power at village level and Shiv Sena is there. They are both involved in this.

TM: The report mentions that many of the accused are relatives of Baburao Pacharne, a BJP member of the legislative assembly in Maharashtra, and that there are “attempts to save the accused.” Is this influencing the investigation?
SD: Yes, the people involved in the stone pelting and violence on 1 January are relatives of the BJP MLA. I can say this 101 percent. This is one the reasons why the police are under pressure. The fast-track investigation that should happen into this is not happening. It is not only the BJP MLA, the local leaders also belong to the Shiv Sena and Rashtrawadi [NCP]. All these political parties indirectly give importance to the Hindutva agenda. The only difference is BJP and Shiv Sena do it openly, and NCP and Congress do it from behind.

TM: In the report, you have asked for the case to be transferred to a Special Investigation Team. What is your assessment of the Pune Rural Police’s investigation into the cases against Ekbote and Bhide?  
SD: We are not satisfied with the investigation so far. Ekbote was arrested, but he has been granted bail. They are not conducting a proper investigation, and haven’t produced proper evidence. Just to show Dalit groups that they are doing something, [the police] arrested Ekbote and produced him in court, but now he’s out. So he can pressurise all the groups. Sambaji Bhide, the police haven’t even touched. Bhide visited Vadu gaonmany times, and has given lectures there, and we have given evidence of how his followers are involved. He must be interrogated. He gets interviewed in the media but not by the police.

TM: What do you think is preventing the police from doing a more thorough investigation? 

SD: It is political. The police are under pressure of the state government. The police doesn’t want to harm the political image of the state government. Mr Bhide is himself the pressure point and associated with BJP groups. Bhide is a [former] RSS member, and totally extremist in his Hindu views, and is delivering his lectures in the direction that is going to favour BJP. In his Hindutva agenda, BJP and Shiv Sena are the main ones who are going to get benefit. Because of his popularity and his follower groups, no political party, even Congress and NCP is daring to talk against him. He must be taken into custody.

TM: Did you find any evidence to support the police claim that persons affiliated with the CPI (Maoists) instigated the violence? 
SD: No. There is no evidence and no such involvement of Naxals. I don’t know how these philosophies of Urban Naxalite are coming. The police are misguiding the investigation. It was previously on Bhide, Ekbote and Hindutva organisations and now they are changing the track.
The direction began to change when the FIR was lodged against the Elgar Parishad with the [Pune] City Police. They are linking Elgar Parishad with Naxalite groups. But we have investigated the 1 January [violence] thoroughly, and we want to say those incidents are not at all related to Naxal groups. The NIA should be there for a thorough investigation.

TM: Why is the police trying to change track?
SD: This is being done to protect Hindutva leaders like Ekbote and Bhide and other Hindutva groups. Because of the investigations into the death of [Narendra] Dabholkar, [Govind] Pansare, and Gauri Lankesh. To divert the attention from this, they are trying to make the Naxalism connection. To put these people in the background, other names have been brought forward. From the investigation of the Karnataka SIT, it is clear that Sanatan Sanstha was involved. Sanatan groups were investigated thoroughly and are now being arrested with evidence. Now there is pressure on the state government of Maharashtra. When the focus came on Hindu extremist activity, it was going against the government agenda. Then Pune Police, who were investigating Elgar Parishad, arrested the five intellectuals from different parts of the country. When the Sanatan was on the hit list in media, and their people were getting arrested everyday, suddenly this Elgar Parishad was linked with Naxalites.

TM: How did the Pune Police respond to your fact-finding report?
SD: 
After the submission, the police denied it, but also assured that they would investigate on the lines of the facts from the report. It is their responsibility to further investigate as per the direction that we have told. If they want to do some other investigation beside our reports, we have no problem with that. But the thing is they purposefully denied this [report]. Why? There is pressure from the government itself, because this particular report totally goes against saffron groups and the people with a Hindutva agenda. We have given enough evidence. We told the police, you come with us directly, or go meet the people whom we have interrogated, but they didn’t do that. For example, we gave names of eyewitnesses who saw kerosene being stocked in the water tractors. But the police haven’t met them. They haven’t interrogated all the people whose names I submitted. The police is doing it according to their convenience. The direction of the police has not even moved even an inch towards the local leaders of the village. Only the common public is getting harassed.

TM: Has the IG officially communicated to you if they are denying or accepting your report?
SD: No, they didn’t respond officially, because the state government issued a committee on the day of the riot itself for the fact finding. They are ignoring [the report.] They have denied it. Because of the political pressure they are not going in the direction we want.

TM: You are part of the RPI(A)-BJP coalition in Maharashtra. What has been the response of the BJP government to your findings?
SD: We met Chief Minister Fadnavis in January and asked him to investigate. But considering the incident, I want to say that the truth must come forward. It must not be co-related directly with a political agenda. We still have hopes. We are fighting with the government and officials that you conduct a thorough investigation.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Fact-finding committee report (Marathi)

Pune Police is diverting the Bhima Koregaon investigation, protecting Bhide, Ekbote: Deputy mayor Siddharth Dhende

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