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Archives for : Tribals

Adivasi women of UP’s Sonbhadra district attacked and arrested by Police for claiming Forest Rights

Arrested-Tribal leader Sukalo Gond (Photo courtesy: CJP)
By Siddhant Mohan,
For more than a month, the Adivasis, especially women, of Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district have been facing police and administrative atrocities for standing up to their forest rights. The Adivasis have been trying to claim the forest land, on which they have been living since many years, however, local police and forest department have been arresting and detaining them for allegedly cutting forest trees and occupying forest land illegally.
It all started on May 18, when police personnel visited Lilasi village of Duddhi Tehsil of Sonbhadra, and picked up about 12 Adivasis from the village and took them to the Nevarpur PS. Out of these 12, ten were women.
Satyaparaksh Singh, the Station House Officer at Myorpur PS, attributed the arrests to “willful destruction” of forest department’s afforestation project in the Lilasi area. According to Singh, “About 40 women cut down over 400 trees on May 14. And when forest guard tried to stop them, they chased them away with axes and other tools.”
However, the Adivasis of Sonbhadra deny such acts and say that they are being targeted because of their campaign which started on April 23 to claim the land on which they have been living. According to one resident of Lilasi, “We were not doing anything illegal. We are just expediting our rights provided by the Forest Rights Act of 2006 which grants us to claim community and individual rights over the land.”
The arrested Adivasis were charged under Section 151 of the India Penal Code which deals with the people knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse.
The arrested people were, however, released after the quick intervention of Teesta Setalvad, the founder of Citizens of Justice and Peace (CJP). On May 22, Satyaprakash Singh again reached Lilasi village with a police force and manhandled the local women and children. According to the complaint filed by the Kismatiya Gond, the secretary at “Gram Vanadhikar Samiti” —an organisation for claiming rights on the land of village and forest, the policemen barged into her house and beat her with sticks. She has also claimed that police behaved in a wrong way with her two minor daughters.
The police harassment on May 22 lasted for a few hours in which police was beating anyone it could see in the village. Seeing police action, the tribal women chased them away from the village.
Lilasi Adivasis have alleged that this event has been followed by many covert and undocumented raids and police visits to the houses of Adivasis. However, police have been denying all such allegations and are saying that when police tried to stop the Adivasis from cutting more trees, they chased and attacked forest guards and police officers.
Adivasis have also alleged that police is using various means to threaten the Adivasis, and no administration official has yet visited the Lilasi village to talk to the villagers.
However, the police went a step ahead by arresting three Adivasi leaders-Sukalo Gond, Kismatiya Gond, and Sukhdev Gond-from Chopan railway station on June 6 when they were returning to Sonbhadra from Lucknow after meeting Dara Singh Chouhan, the state forest minister.
The arrested tribal leaders were not allowed to talk to their family members for more than 24 hours. In fact, it was only after the intervention by CJP and the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFP) that the police admitted that three tribal leaders had been arrested and sent to jail from the railway station.
What makes this arrest more dubious that Sukalo Gond and Kismatiya Gond were not even named in the police FIR, but they were arrested anyway without any charges. Nanhak Ram, the 53-year-old husband of Sukalo, told, “They (police) arrested her from the railway station. We were waiting for her in the village. And they neither informed us about her arrest nor allowed her to talk to us for more than 24 hours. We were sick worried about her, but that did not matter to the police.”
“Sukalo’s name is not even in the FIR …we fail to understand on which grounds has she has been arrested,” added Nanhak Ram.
Since the arrest of the 12 Adivasis on May 18, most of the women of Lilasi village are not returning to their homes fearing police violence and arrest. Bechan Singh, a resident of Lilasi village said, “The local women are forced to spend their day somewhere else because they think if they come to the village, they could be arrested or beaten by the police.
Rai Singh, the 21-year-old son of arrested Sukhdev Gond said, “We thought he would return and the problems would be resolved, but it was not like that.” Contrary to Sukalo and Kisamtiya, Sukhdev Gond was named in the police FIR, but according to his family members, he did not do anything which could be termed criminal.
Moreover, the police have not produced the arrested Adivasis in any court, contrary to the legal procedure which says that every individual has to be produced in court within 24 hours of the arrest.
On March 23, the Adivasis of the village handed over papers to the District Magistrate at Sonbhadra claiming land rights on more than 250 acres of forest land under Forest Rights Act, 2006. The piece of land was in dispute between the Adivasis and the Forest Department of the state. According to the papers, the forest department has been claiming the land piece as “reserved” while Adivasis argue that the Forest Department has not conducted any official mapping and measurement of the land.
Adivasis have also claimed that Forest Department officials gave the land to powerful and upper-caste residents of the village, which was used for building houses. In their application to the Forest Secretary of the state, the Adivasis named Ramvriksh, Pradeep, Ramsevak Yadav, Ravikant, Devendra, Kisan, Rajendra, and the local police department for the illegal forest land trading.
The police cases against the Adivasis are said to be a product of the same tussle between powerful land occupants and local Adivasis. The locals from Duddhi have accused the Forest Rights Unions and other organisations of using Adivasis to get a hold on forest produces.
Tribals of Sonbhadra’s Lilasi village (Photo: sources)
According to Roma Malik, the Deputy General Secretary at AIUFWP, a Habeas Corpus petition has been filed on June 27 by CJP and AIUFWP in the Allahabad High Court regarding immediate release of Sukalo and Kismatiya, who were not named in the police FIR. On June 29, a two-member bench of the Allahabad High Court issued a notice to the respondents in the case that include the State of UP (through the Principal Secretary, Home), Sonebhadra Superintendent of Police (SP) and District Management (DM) and Station House Officer, Myorpur Police Station. The court has now demanded an explanation for the detention from the SP and the DM. The court has also directed that both Sukalo and Kismatiya be produced before it at the next hearing on July 9.

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Who is a Maoist in India?

All through the UPA rule, any Adivasi leader who mobilised protests was termed a Maoist.  The NDA government is no different

Why do governments feel that Dalits and Adivasis, despite all the atrocities they face, will tolerate everything passively until prodded by Maoists?
The recent arrest of five activists in Maharashtra and one in Delhi, ostensibly in connection with the violence that broke out after the Bhima Koregaon Dalit rally in January, once again bears out this government attitude. All five have been charged with helping Maoists, who, say the police, were behind the rally.

Similar allegations were made after the killing of a Dalit family in Khairlanji led to protests in Maharashtra. The brutal killings which took place in full view of the village in broad daylight, didn’t trouble the state; the protests did.

In September 2006, Surekha Bhootmange and her daughter Priyanka were paraded naked before being sexually brutalised and killed by a ‘high’ caste mob. Two young sons of the family were also killed.
After failing to get the police to act for over two months, Dalit protests in Chandrapur turned violent. That’s when the Congress-NCP government led by the late Vilasrao Deshmukh woke up—to wonder whether there was a “Maoist hand” in the protests.

All through the UPA rule, any Adivasi leader who mobilised protests was termed a Maoist. The list includes singer Jiten Marandi, journalist Dayamani Barla from Jharkhand and school teacher Soni Sori from Chhattisgarh. The UPA seemed to regard Adivasis as a simple, contented lot—till the Maoists instigated them. From Chhattisgarh to Odisha, hundreds of protesting and even non-protesting tribals were arrested and branded Maoists.

The UPA chose to ignore the issues which agitated these Adivasis: mostly displacement from their forest homes by so-called “development”, in the form of mega projects. Accordingly, the Niyamgiri Hills inhabited by the Dongria Kondh tribe of Odisha, who were opposing the setting up of an aluminium refinery by the multinational corporation Vedanta, were described as Maoist zones and saw a heavy deployment of security forces.

Notwithstanding all its differences with the Congress, the NDA government is following the same strategy. While Adivasis continue to fill jails, the ruling party has a curious attitude towards Dalits. It badly wants to woo this section, but at the same time, seems blind to the daily humiliations being faced by Dalits across the country.

It’s not as if Dalits were being treated just fine when the UPA was in power—Khairlanji is enough proof to the contrary. But the NDA rule has seen a rise in open, blatant violence against Dalits.
The images of bare-backed Dalits being publicly flogged in Una remains a powerful memory. So does the ugly aftermath of Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

Instances of Dalit grooms being attacked for riding a horse seem to have increased. So common have videos of so-called upper castes assaulting Dalits become, that when one watches the latest such video: of a 13-year-old being thrashed by boys belonging to the “Darbar” caste in Gujarat—
one wonders if this isn’t some older video being circulated again.

Do politicians think that in this age when every act of violence is filmed and transmitted, often by the perpetrators themselves, Dalit youth will not erupt in anger at the impunity enjoyed by the assailants? This is not just an educated generation, but one conscious of its citizenship rights. The Constitution may be an abstraction for most youth, but not for Dalit youth, because the man they worship was
its architect.

The second objectionable angle to this entire business of blaming Maoists is the premise that belief in Maoism is a crime. The latest reason given by the Maharashtra police to ask for an extension of police remand of the five activists, is that the accused were allegedly involved in organising a lecture at JNU in memory of a slain Maoist. Incidentally, this memorial lecture is being held since 2012.

One wonders what crime this constitutes. Every year, the Anuradha Ghandy Memorial lecture is held in Mumbai in memory of the late Maoist who was born, educated and worked in Mumbai. The Mumbai Press Club, Mumbai University’s Convocation Hall, the Anjuman-I-Islam library, St Xavier’s College hall—these venues have seen full houses at these lectures.

The Supreme Court and various High Courts have held that merely being a Maoist sympathiser, possessing literature that propagates Maoism, even being a member of a banned organisation, could not be considered a crime. All that was seized from these activists was literature, and claim the police, a sum of `80,000 from one of them.

Yet, the judge extended the police remand for a week. Such is the power of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. It is presumed that if the state has used this draconian law, the accused must have been planning to indulge in “anti-national” activities. Few charged under UAPA are convicted, but the dread created by the potential crimes it invokes and its sweeping powers of detention make the use of the Act itself
a punishment.

The day her police remand was extended, Professor Shoma Sen, who was due to retire in August as head of the English Department, was suspended by Nagpur University. Contrast this with one fact: policemen, paid to uphold the law, who face charges of murdering innocents in the Mumbai  1992-93 riots, have spent not a moment in police custody.

Source- Indian Express

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Bhima Koregaon Violence – Arrest of Activists is Stifling Dissent #DefendDissent

A protest outside the Collector’s Office demanding the release of Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit activist associated with the Elgaar Parishad who was arrested from his residence in Mumbai on June 6 in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon rally on January 1.

Five rights activists, four of them associated with the Elgaar Parishad held at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, have been arrested for alleged links with naxalites.

IN a bizarre turn of events after the violence that broke out on January 1 during the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, five rights activists have been arrested for their alleged links with naxalites. According to the police, the “Elgaar Parishad” meeting that saw hundreds of Dalits congregate in Pune on December 31, 2017, was funded by naxalites. The five activists have been charged with conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The authorities believe the Elgaar Parishad (loosely translated as clarion call) instigated the violence on January 1 at the victory pillar, the monument that commemorates the battle near Ahmednagar. Surendra Gadling, a human rights lawyer from Nagpur; Sudhir Dhawale, Dalit rights leader and editor of Vidrohi; Rona Wilson, a New Delhi-based social activist; Shoma Sen, a professor of English in Nagpur University; and Mahesh Raut, a former recipient of the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which gives no scope for anticipatory bail. They join the ranks of an increasing number of moderate activists and social workers arrested on false charges just because they believe in a cause and are becoming a thorn in the side of the government. But the police call them urban Maoists, that is, they take the Maoist ideology to urban areas.

A lawyer said (on the condition of anonymity given the current climate of harassment): “The battle for [their] release will be long and hard, as we have seen each time an activist or social worker is arrested. There is always an agenda behind the arrest; this case is no different.”

Dalits played a stellar role in a division of the British army which defeated the Peshwa rulers in the Third Anglo-Maratha War in 1818. For Dalits, the battle was not about joining forces with the British but a victory over their oppressors, the Brahmin Peshwas. Every year on January 1, thousands of Dalits make a pilgrimage to the monument, an innocuous obelisk with the names of Mahar soldiers inscribed on it. It is located between Pune and Ahmednagar near a village called Bhima-Koregaon along the Bhima river.

As 2018 marked the bicentennial of the battle, Dalit organisations had planned celebrations at the ground. On December 31, rights activists, some politicians, social workers, leaders of Dalit organisations and their supporters held the Elgaar Parishad rally at Shaniwarwada in Pune. Dhawale was instrumental in planning the rally. Jignesh Mevani, a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, was among the key speakers at the rally. He, too, has been accused of having links with naxalites.

The main accusation is that other than Rona Wilson, all the other accused were present at the Elgaar Parishad and used their naxalite connections to fund the programme.

According to Jaideo Gaikwad, a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council from Pune, the rally was peaceful and its leaders essentially spoke about the need to fight for Dalit rights and welfare. Videos uploaded on YouTube prove this.

Involvement of right-wing groups

Gaikwad believes that the Pune rally and the extensive preparations that took place at the Bhima-Koregaon monument began to rile troublemakers among Marathas and Brahmins such as Milind Ekbote of the Samasta Hindu Aghadi and Shambhaji Bhide, who leads the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan in the Sangli-Kolhapur-Satara belt. “I was at the site and we spoke to many people who said Ekbote had been in the area and young Maratha boys had begun to assemble around the village. The air was certainly restive on December 31, 2017,” he said.

Eyewitness accounts say that as pilgrims started arriving, people began throwing stones at vehicles, ransacking shops and in some areas openly clashing with Dalits who were on their way to Bhima-Koregaon. The situation took an ugly and tragic turn when one man lost his life in the violence, Gaikwad said.

Milind Ekbote, Samastha Hindu Aghadi leader. He is one of the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.   –  by special arrangement

In spite of ample evidence, including credible eyewitness accounts, proving the involvement of right-wing and Maratha fringe groups in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, only Ekbote, a self-proclaimed champion of the Maratha community and Hindu supremacy, has been arrested. Ekbote was arrested in March following severe pressure from Dalit groups. The octogenarian Bhide has been given a clean chit by the police and the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra.

Ravindra Kadam, Joint Commissioner of Police, Pune, told mediapersons that a specific letter found during a raid conducted on April 17 revealed “an assassination plot” on the lines of the one conducted aginst former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, to kill Modi. This accusation has shaken the rights activists, who say it is far from the truth.

Many activists Frontline spoke to said that none of the five arrested activists had the capability to carry out a terror operation. An activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the BJP government was targeting human rights activists it was not comfortable with. “Any dissent is considered anti-national; whistle-blowers are killed and whoever stands up to them gets strapped to their radar, which is dangerous as they can be targeted at any time.”

The lawyer, writer and former social worker Arun Ferriera was a political prisoner for six years on similar charges. He said: “Sadly, it has become a political case, and under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act it will be a tough legal battle.” Ferriera, who is closely monitoring the recent case, said the arrests were made following a first information report filed on January 1 against Mevani and the student activist Umar Khalid and another filed on January 8 against Dhawale, the Kabir Kala Manch, and the Republican Panthers for allegedly inciting communal violence through hate speeches at the Elgaar Parishad rally. They were charged with Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In March, the police added 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC to the charges. This would make their case even more difficult, Ferriera said. Apparently, using a statement given by the Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba, who was arrested in 2013 for his connection with a banned Maoist organisation, the police brought Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson into this case. Ferriera questioned the legality of this action.

Subodh More, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader in Pune, said: “The police have made such an effort to arrest five people. What happened to the FIRs filed by those affected by the clashes at Bhima-Koregaon, people whose property was burnt by vandals or were injured severely?” He said: “If that letter [seized by the police] was so serious, why did they wait for six weeks to arrest the accused?” Moreover, “how is it that a BJP leader, Sambit Patra, was waving the letter on television channels? How did a politician have access to such a sensitive letter? How can one letter contain so much information? An assassination attempt, names of activists, funds for the Elgaar, names of organisations? It seems absurd,” he said. He added that recently Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporters took out a procession in Kolhapur wielding swords and guns but no action was taken. The police just stood watching. “They denied us permission to hold the Elgaar. How is it that a group that brandishes weapons is given permission to hold a public rally?” he asked.

The activists

The five accused were arrested from their homes in a joint operation in Nagpur, Delhi and Mumbai on June 6. They are being held in judicial custody in Pune. A look at their profiles establishes the reason why the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is perceived to be going after them.

Sudhir Dhawale is a well-known Dalit rights activist and editor of Vidrohia fortnightly magazine. The magazine has grown in size and strength and is an effective voice of Dalits and other marginalised communities. A staunch Ambedkarite, Dhawale founded the Republican Panther Jaliantachi Chalwal (Movement for Annihilation of Caste).

Dhawale has been on the establishment’s radar for a while. He was arrested in 2011 for alleged links with naxalites. He was released from the Gondia prison in 2014, but he continued his work for the community. It was at his house, which the police raided on April 17, that the incriminating “assassination letter” was found. Subodh More said Dhawale conceived and planned the Elgaar Parishad around the Bhima-Koregaon bicentenary celebrations. He wanted it to be a platform for Dalit leaders and organisations to speak publicly, discuss and unite on issues facing the community.

Surendra Gadling is a senior labour and human rights lawyer based in Nagpur. He is sympathetic to Dalit and Adivasi issues and is known to fight cases pertaining to illegal killings, atrocities and police excesses, and of youngsters accused of naxalite links. At present, he is representing Saibaba. Gadling is an active member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights.

Incidentally, Ravindra Kadam, who is leading the investigation, was the Director General of Police in the naxalite region a few years ago. He was reportedly instrumental in the arrest of Saibaba and Dhawale (in 2011). A source in Nagpur said Kadam had been trying to bring Gadling to book for years.

Mahesh Raut, 30, a graduate of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, is the youngest among the arrested. He has done extensive work in the Adivasi belt of Vidarbha region. Raut is known for mobilising communities to fight for land and against local mining projects.

Shoma Sen is professor and head of the English department in Nagpur University. “It is not clear why they picked her,” said Subodh More. Shoma Sen attended the Elgaar Parishad and is associated with women’s rights programmes. Her husband was once in the underground Left movement and that is perhaps the reason why the couple’s names figure in police records.

Rona Wilson’s arrest is a curious case. A graduate from Jawaharlal Nehru University, he works with the Committee for Release of Prisoners. He has actively campaigned against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He is not associated with the Elgaar Parishad. The police apparently found documents suggesting that he was part of the assassination conspiracy and thus established a link with the other accused. Wilson was also involved in the Saibaba case. According to a Left source, Wilson is a committed social worker and it is unlikely that he is involved with extremists.

Of the two chief culprits in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, Ekbote, 60, was probably the easier fish to catch. “Mainly because he lacks the political clout that Bhide wields,” says a police source. After failing as a politician and with no support from right-wing parties, Ekbote has been mobilising Maratha and Brahmin youths against minorities and marginalised communities, who according to him are getting better opportunities and surging ahead on the back of reservation in education and jobs.

Although cases were filed against him and there was substantial evidence, including video recordings of his hate speeches and instigation of violence at Bhima-Koregaon, Ekbote managed to evade arrest. He was arrested after the Supreme Court, on March 14, cancelled his interim bail. Massive Dalit rallies had been held across Maharashtra demanding his arrest.

Meanwhile, undeterred by calls for his arrest, Bhide continues to ride his bicycle across Sangli district and make inflammatory speeches about minorities and Dalits. Bhide’s formidable followers include Modi and Fadnavis. “We will continue our agitation until they take action against him,” Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, said.

Bhide is a self-proclaimed protector of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s legacy. Unfortunately, he twists history and spreads all kinds of propaganda in the villages around Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur, says Zain Sheikh, a local social worker. He says Bhide holds two major events every year, which are attended by thousands of local people. One is the Durgamata Doard, during Navaratri, when his followers draw rangoli and decorate the front of homes with flowers. They leave out Mulsim and Dalit homes.

Bhide is said to have claimed that “if you kill one Muslim or Dalit, you will be reborn 100 times as a Hindu”.

Source- FrontLine

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Ashok Dhawale: The Good Doctor #mustread

By: Ramu Ramanathan

When farmers gathered at CBS Chowk in Nashik on March 6, no one knew what to expect. During the following week, 50,000 farmers marched to Mumbai. It culminated in a promise by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his council of ministers to look into the farmers’ demands. In this day and age of political cynicism, the Kisan Long March has been acknowledged for its brilliant use of tactics. Mumbaikars speak with awe about the weary farmers’ midnight walk of 10-15 km to Azad Maidan in Mumbai, in darkness and pain. It placed the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) — a people’s organisation — and the agrarian crisis, on the political map of India.

So, what next, I ask the national president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and Central Committee member of the CPI(M), Dr Ashok Dhawale? He replies, “On September 5, the Kisan Sabha, along with other organisations of workers and agricultural labourers, will lead a gigantic march on Delhi, and have the farmers speak to the Indian nation from there.” He adds, “Plus, we are insisting on a 20-day special session of Parliament to discuss nothing but the agrarian crisis.”

This is not tattle and talk. Since March 12, Dhawale has been busy. The AIKS has held sabhas and protests in over 70 tehsil offices across Maharashtra. The struggle is on. For four issues: land rights, loan waiver, remunerative prices and increased pensions. Dhawale says, “The AIKS plans to collect 10 crore signatures from farmers, workers, students, and the middle class. And court arrest in each and every district of the country on August 9, in the 76th year of the Quit India movement.”

Dr Dhawale, who was born in 1952, practised medicine as a general practitioner in Mumbai from 1976 to 1983. In 1983, which was Karl Marx’s death Centenary year, he became a full-time activist of the CPI(M). He cherishes the memories. He recalls his meeting with Comrade Pandurang Bhaskar Rangnekar. Dhawale says, “It was PBR whom I first met before joining the party, 40 years ago in 1978. I remember the apprehension with which I climbed the two tall staircases of his house to meet him and tell him that I wanted to join the CPI(M)! I had then completed my MBBS and was in medical practice, but was also doing my MA (Political Science) from Bombay University. That is why the party asked me to work on the student front. For the next 17 years, I was one of the activists working first in the SFI, and then in the DYFI.

PBR was in charge of both these fronts and thus was also my in-charge. We came closer when I gave up my medical practice and became a party whole-timer in 1983.”

Ashok Dhawale: The Good Doctor

Dhawale speaks about his “hero”, Godavari Parulekar, who along with her husband Shamrao Parulekar, were a revolutionary team. They led the Warli Adivasi Revolt, which swept Thane district during 1945-47. Dhawale says, “It is an extraordinary life. Godavari Gokhale was born on August 14, 1907, in a well-to-do family in Pune. Her father was the renowned lawyer Laxmanrao Gokhale, who was a cousin of Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Godavari graduated in economics and politics from Fergusson College, Pune, and among her contemporaries were SM Joshi, NG Goray and Achyutrao Patwardhan, all of whom would become leaders of the freedom struggle and of the Socialist Party. She studied law, gaining the distinction of becoming the first woman law graduate in Maharashtra. Her father wanted her to join his law practice, but it was not to be. She went on to become a legendary national leader of the Kisan Sabha and the Communist Party.”

He remembers the contribution of Krishna Khopkar. “For 10 years, from 1995 to 2005, Krishna Khopkar, LB Dhangar, Narendra Malusare and I, along with other AIKS state office bearers, toured the state several times for AIKS struggles, conventions, conferences, study camps and meetings. These tours and the struggles on manifold peasant issues that the AIKS organisation supported reached 25 districts of Maharashtra and a united team of hundreds of dedicated cadres was formed. On the basis of this collective effort, the 31st national conference of the AIKS was held at Nashik in January 2006 with a one-lakhstrong rally. AIKS membership in Maharashtra crossed the two-lakh mark for the first time.

Today the AIKS has leaders like JP Gavit, Kisan Gujar and Dr Ajit Nawale, among others.” I ask him the question that was posed to EMS Namboodiripad, that if the Communists in India are working so hard, why is there such little electoral success? During the recent Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll, it became a show of strength between BJP’s Rajendra Gavit, Shiv Sena’s Shriniwas Wanaga and the Bahujan Vikas Party. Dr Dhawale replies, “Three reasons, really. Religion and caste, as EMS had then replied, and money-power. We need to fully understand the impact of caste atrocity and caste exclusion. At the same time, we have to be aware of economic exploitation and focus on class. We also need to have radical electoral reforms.”

Is he hopeful? Yes, he says. “The recent Kisan Long March was a coming together of the first two issues.” How so? He explains, “The biggest and most spontaneous reception to the Long March was in the Dalit locality of Mata Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar at Ghatkopar in Mumbai, the very place that had seen the shooting down of 11 Dalits in police firing under the BJP-Shiv Sena regime 20 years ago.

The Dabbawalas of Mumbai also contributed their might to the cause. In the most touching move, farmers from Raigad district, under the leadership of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) brought 1.5 lakh rice bhakris and dry fish for the marchers on the last day at Azad Maidan.”

In this day and age of rabble rousing, Dhawale’s conversational style is measured, and the cadence is gentle. Our morning chitchat stretches into the noon, and you realise that his words are tentative but self-assured.

Chai arrives from the local tapri. Dhawale signs a receipt book. I look around at the walls of the Janashakti office. The lofty Left leaders who adorn the Janashakti walls have passed away. Dhawale is the only one who has survived from the generation of greats.

He has matched their cadre-building and polemical clout, with a quiet modesty of his own. But he is aware of the gravity of the situation even as he shoulders the legacy of the Left movement in the most troubled city in the country.

Short takes

What is the best place in Mumbai:
The Janashakti oice in Worli, which is the party headquarters. For the past 50 years, it has been the centre of activity for the Left movement in Maharashtra — be it meetings, planning for rallies or publication of the party’s state weekly, Jeewan Marg, and other magazines and pamphlets.

A day in Mumbai which you shall never forget: It’s January 19, 1982, when the great textile workers strike was declared in Mumbai. Mill owners stopped paying wages. More than 2.5 lakh mill workers in the city did not receive salaries, beneits and bonuses and were arbitrarily suspended. Day One of the strike was an example of great class solidarity.

One event in Mumbai which cast an everlasting impression on you? The defeat of the Emergency on March 21, 1977. The day before the votes were being counted for the general elections. By evening, the results started coming in. The Janata Front won all the seats in Bombay. Stalwarts like Ahilya Rangnekar and Mrinal Gore were elected to the Lok Sabha.

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‘Avatar’ tribe poses second challenge to Vedanta after deadly India protests

Reuters  |  LANJIGARH, I

The killing by police of 13 people protesting against the copper smelter in Tamil Nadu, to the south, has given fresh impetus to their campaign to also close the refinery run by the company’s Indian unit, The company is seeking to expand the plant.

“We’ll shed our blood for Niyamgiri, we will die for Niyamgiri,” tribal leader Lado Sikaka, carrying an axe hooked onto his shoulder blade in the fashion of men from his community, told a crowd of several hundred at a rally near the refinery, in the remote town of Lanjigarh, on June 5.

“Vedanta can give jobs to only a few but Niyam Raja has given us everything,” he said, referring to the hill-god of the community’s traditional animist religion. “We will keep fighting till the end. We will intensify our agitation.”

The poster behind him demanded: “Polluter and killer company Vedanta to quit Tribute to martyrs of Tuticorin”.

In Tuticorin, officially known as Thoothukudi, Vedanta has been accused by local residents and environmentalists of polluting the air and groundwater. The police shootings on May 22 came after at least 50,000 people gathered on the 100th day of their campaign to oppose the expansion of the smelter.

The company, in which Indian dealer-turned-billionaire has a controlling stake, called the incident “absolutely unfortunate”. It denies it is in breach of any environmental laws.

In the wake of the police shootings, the state government ordered the closure of the Thoothukudi copper smelter on environmental grounds, wiping tens of millions of dollars off Vedanta’s market value and sales. Sources say the company may appeal.


The alumina refinery, lacking a local source, mostly uses costly bauxite imported from as far as and and brought 170 miles (275 km) by train from a port in neighbouring state – a situation that makes no economic sense.

Sikaka and other representatives of the Dongria Kondh tribe, with an estimated population of up to 16,000, say they fear the company aims to revive plans to tap the high-quality bauxite beneath the pristine 

The tribe, whose name derives from “dongar”, which means “farming on hill slopes”, believe they are the descendants of their male deity, Niyam Raja, and have exclusive rights to the hill they live in.

The tribe’s fight with Vedanta has been likened by environmental campaigners to James Cameron’s Oscar-winning “Avatar” movie, in which humans battled with indigenous people on a fictional moon for mineral rights.

One Vedanta who spoke to acknowledged that in Niyamgiri remained its long-term aim.

“In business you have to take risks. The whole purpose of setting up the plant in this jungle was to have access to bauxite,” said the executive, seated in the guesthouse of a Vedanta township ringed by hills and secured by manned by private security guards.

“Some will happen here. Dongria people are looking for opportunities. A section of them wants to join the mainstream.”

Vedanta had intended to supply the refinery with bauxite extracted from the by a company owned by the state government, which backed the project. A rusting mounted on dozens of concrete pillars can still be seen snaking down the green hillside to the plant.

But, after opposition from local villagers and global rights groups, the plan was blocked by the and in 2013. Two years later, tried to revive the mining plan without success.

Vedanta said in a statement to that it would participate in any auctions of new bauxite mines in Odisha, adding that the state had 70 percent of India’s total bauxite reserve, the world’s fifth-largest.

The company did not answer a question on whether it still hoped to access the Niyamgiri reserve, which is estimated to hold 88 million tonnes of bauxite, enough to meet the refinery’s demand for around 17 years based on current annual consumption of 5 million tonnes.

It takes around 3 tonnes of bauxite to produce 1 tonne of alumina, a used to make by running an electrical current through it.

Vedanta has environmental and other clearances in place to expand the refinery’s capacity to produce 6 million tonnes of alumina a year, said the executive, who declined to be named, citing company policy.

The plant produced around 1.2 million tonnes of alumina in the last fiscal year, and has a current capacity of 2 million tonnes.

Vedanta has already spent more than $9 billion to build the refinery and an aluminium smelter in Odisha. The refinery has never made money since being commissioned in 2007, mainly due to the use of costly bauxite.

did not respond to requests seeking comment on the protests against the refinery. A declined to comment.


Prafulla Samantray, who won the international Goldman Environmental Prize in 2017 for leading the legal campaign against the open-cast mine, said he had already challenged the expansion of the refinery in India’s National Green Tribunal, on the grounds that when mining is not allowed in Niyamgiri, no polluting industry should be permitted around it.

Vedanta denied the refinery polluted the area.

“We, at Lanjigarh, are committed to operating as a responsible business, adhering to international standards of sustainability and corporate governance,” the company said in the statement. “We are committed to our environment by achieving ‘zero harm’, ‘zero waste’ and ‘zero discharge’ at our unit and promote social inclusion across our operations.”

Vedanta insiders say it is natural for a company that has grown so quickly – majority owner Agarwal started out in 1979 buying a tiny copper company and now runs an empire spread across continents – to be the target of environmentalists.

But at the same time they acknowledge the damage to its image such protests can cause. Many high-profile investors have already sold their shares in the company.

A planned $1 billion university by Agarwal’s foundation in Odisha has been collateral damage from the opposition to Vedanta, said Bijay Patnaik, a former chief civil servant of Odisha who now heads the university project that has been delayed by years because of a dispute over whether the venture was ‘non-profit’.

has nothing to do with the company as such. But people still think it’s all related to the company, nobody thinks it’s his personal wealth he is giving,” Patnaik said.


Vedanta says in a background paper posted on its website that the refinery and mine were always conceived as an “integrated project” that would benefit an area it says is characterised by “stark poverty”.

In Lanjigarh, said Vedanta has been able to convince a number of people about the economic benefits of having the refinery, though many still remained opposed to it.

Local journalists and police said the plant was the only reason the remote area, parts of which are controlled by leftist guerrillas, now had well-maintained, tarred roads and motorcycles.

“It would have remained a jungle otherwise,” said 

The plant employs around 5,300 people directly or indirectly, with more than two-thirds of them from its host district and the one adjoining it. Spending by the company on local health and education facilities is rising too, it said.

But tribal leaders such as Sikaka spoke passionately against the plant at the June 5 rally, held under a colourful tent shaded by mango trees as around 150 police kept a watch, some in riot gear.

Behind Sikaka sat a handful of Dongria women in their traditional red-and-white tribal dress, with golden rings through their noses and colourful beads around their necks.

One was the sister of millet-grower Drinju Krushuka, who said he walked five hours to the rally from his village deep in the hills, after hearing on the radio about the deaths in Thoothukudi.

“We will never allow them to expand and mine in Niyamgiri,” said Krushuka, who has never been to school. “How many people can they kill?”

(Reporting by Krishna N. and Jatindra Dash; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Bhima-Koregaon arrests are Maharashtra government’s bone-chilling attempts to subvert justice

The Pune Police at 6.00 am on June 6, 2018 carried out simultaneous raids in Mumbai, Nagpur and New Delhi. From Mumbai, they arrested Sudhir Dhawale — the editor of the progressive Marathi magazine Vidrohi and a key organiser of the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan. From Nagpur, they picked up three individuals — advocate Surendra Gadling, general secretary, Indian Association of People’s Lawyers; Professor Shoma Sen, the head of the Department of English, Nagpur University; and Mahesh Raut, anti-displacement activist from Bharat Jan Andolan and a former fellow at the Prime Minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) for Gadchiroli District. They arrested Rona Wilson, public relations secretary, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, from New Delhi.

These arrests and searches were purportedly made under an FIR registered on January 8, 2018 at Vishram Baug Police Station, Pune, with regard to the holding of the Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017 by the Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan. This FIR, originally registered under sections 153(A), 505 (1)(b), 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), was made into a conspiracy case in March 2018 and now has had sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) added to it. The June 6 arrests have thus been made under UAPA, which has several draconian provisions that ensure long detention and makes it difficult to obtain bail.

These arrests come in the face of the mass demand of several political parties and human rights organisations and activists and the Prerna Abhiyan, in particular, to arrest the two leaders of Sangh Parivar organisations who were responsible for the violence on January 1, 2018 at Bhima Koregaon — Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote.

in particular, to arrest the two leaders of Sangh Parivar organisations who were responsible for the violence on January 1, 2018 at Bhima Koregaon — Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote

The Fadnavis government, which has been protecting these actual perpetrators of the violence, has been attempting to create a false narrative that the violence at Bhima Koregaon was caused by the Elgar Parishad and that banned Maoist organisations are behind the Prerna Abhiyan.

Targeting the Dalit coalition

The Bhima-Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan is a coalition of around 260 mass organisations under the Chairmanship of Retired Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant and includes prominent political figures like advocate Prakash Ambedkar, the leader of the Bahujan Republican Party (Bharip), and the retired high court judge Justice Kolse-Patil. In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon that vanquished the Peshwa rule, the Abhiyan had organised the Elgar Parishad, a mass meeting on December 31, 2017 at the historic Shaniwar wada in Pune. Several prominent speakers, including Justice Kolse-Patil, Prakash Ambedkar, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid and others, with about fifty thousand people attending. Elgar Parishad was organised with the stated objective of fighting the nav-peshwahi, or the new Brahminical forces ruling the country today. The programme was historic and immensely successful, attended by thousands from across the state and even other parts of the country.

It is important to note that there were no untoward incidents on that day, December 31, 2017. No clashes, no riots

It is important to note that there were no untoward incidents on that day, December 31, 2017. No clashes, no riots. A most disciplined crowd dispersed at the end of the programme.  It was two centuries ago, on January 1, 1818, that a few hundred Mahar soldiers, fighting as part of the British Indian army, defeated over 20,000 Peshwa soldiers in the battle of Bhima Koregaon, which is 40 kilometres away from Pune in Maharashtra. Over the years, lakhs of Dalits have converged at Bhima Koregaon, much like the manner in which crowds gather at Deeksha Bhoomi in Nagpur every year to celebrate the rejection of Hinduism and embrace of Buddhism by Dr B R Ambedkar, as well as those that assemble at Chaitya Bhoomi at Dadar on December 6 to pay respects on his death anniversary.

Several right-wing groups like the Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasabha, Rashtriya Ekatmata Rashtra Abhiyan, Hindu Aghadi and also the descendants of the Peshwas have, however, opposed the celebration, calling it “anti-national” and “casteist”. The government and the right-wing forces were thus alarmed and shaken with such unprecedented mobilisation of anti-communal forces. Instigated by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, two right-wing activists who are closely connected with the RSS and the ruling BJP government, mobs carrying saffron flags, as part of a pre-meditated plan, attacked the Dalit masses who were congregating to commemorate the event at Bhima-Koregaon.

There were huge protests all over the state against the right-wing led violence against the Dalit congregation at Bhima Koregaon on January 1. There was a successful Maharashtra bandh on 3rd January 3, of not only entire Mumbai-Kalyan but of many parts of Maharashtra as well. This too irked the government and the right-wing forces no end.

The first FIR to be registered was against Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote

The first FIR to be registered was against Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote. To counter this, C.R. No. 2 of 2018 of Vishrambagh Police Station under sections 153-A, 505, 117 of IPC, was registered against Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid, two of the most popular speakers at the Elgar Parishad. It took eight days for the police to register C.R. No. 4 of 2018 under sections 153-A, 505, 117 of IPC on January 8 2018 against Sudhir Dhawale and five others. This is the FIR upon which the June 6 arrests of Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut were carried out. Of the five, only Sudhir Dhawale’s name finds mention in the original FIR of January 8.

A trail of illegal, vindictive arrests

While arrests were being carried out in different parts of the country on June 6, instead of the usual display of arms and ammunition seized to show Maoist links, the Pune police were surreptitiously leaking letters, purportedly seized from those arrested, showing deep Maoist links to the Elgar Parishad and thereby concluding that the violence of the extreme right-wing forces on January 1 on the Dalit masses at Bhima Koregaon was actually instigated by the Maoists, who in turn were funded by the Congress party. And the supposed deep links of the accused five with all this was as liaison between Maoists and Congress Party to organise the Elgar Parishad! A letter released a day later made an even more bizarre claim of a suggested assassination plot on Prime Minister Narendra Modi (See images).

letter 1

letter 2

A press conference taken on June 7 by Pune Joint Commissioner of Police, Ravindra Kadam, lent credence to these letters. The modus operandi of Ravindra Kadam publicising supposedly sensitive material to the press being questionable is just one aspect of the sordid saga.

These letters were not filed in the court of Special Sessions Judge Bhaisare, Pune, on June 7

These letters were not filed in the court of Special Sessions Judge Bhaisare, Pune, on June 7 when the accused were produced before him. Nor were the defence lawyers given copies of these letters. Most importantly, they do not find a mention in the remand application of the Investigating Officer, ACP Dr Shivaji Pawar, Swargate, Pune demanding 14-day police custody remand (PCR) of the accused. The judge after hearing two hours of arguments by the defence lawyers about the illegality of the arrest and of imposing the draconian UAPA against them, while the real perpetrators of the Bhima Koregaon violence have been allowed to go scot free, granted the police PCR of seven days, till June 14.

The condition of those illegally incarcerated is serious. Surendra Gadling, who was surreptitiously produced at 5 am on June 7 before the Sessions Judge Bhaisare, in order to avoid presenting him along with the others, was even foisted with a legal aid lawyer, which he refused. However, for the rest of the day, the canard was spread that Gadling had accepted the legal aid lawyer provided by Pune police.

It is a tragic irony that Gadling, who has become world-famous for his skills as a successful criminal lawyer, particularly in special security laws like TADA, POTA, NSA and UAPA, today finds himself an accused in a UAPA case

It is a tragic irony that Gadling, who has become world-famous for his skills as a successful criminal lawyer, particularly in special security laws like TADA, POTA, NSA and UAPA, today finds himself an accused in a UAPA case. He was briefly admitted in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the government hospital in Pune. In order to wash their hands off it, the Pune police promptly applied for MCR and Judge Bhaisare even granted it, possibly in the presence of the fake legal aid lawyer. On Monday, June 11, Gadling was transferred to Yedwada jail in Pune despite being critically ill.

Similarly, all the other accused have terrible stories to tell.

Dr Shoma Sen was about to celebrate her 60th birthday in just a month’s time and to retire as HoD, English at Nagpur University.

Dr Shoma Sen was about to celebrate her 60th birthday in just a month’s time and to retire as HoD, English at Nagpur University. With one sleight of its hand, the Pune Police have ensured that she will be denied the dignity and benefits of having served the university for the past 30 years.

Sudhir Dhawale, who had got a clean acquittal (won by none other than Surendra Gadling) in a UAPA case falsely foisted on him by the very same Ravindra Kadam in 2011 while he was the DIG, Anti-Naxal Operations, Nagpur, an acquittal which the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court refused to set aside when Kadam appealed against it. He has now been foisted with a fresh UAPA case.

and with another sleight of hand, the immense work put in by Sudhir Dhawle in organising the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad has been tarnished with a Maoist-link brush.

And with another sleight of hand, the immense work put in by Sudhir Dhawle in organising the Bhima Koregaon Elgar Parishad has been tarnished with a Maoist-link brush.

On her part, Rona Wilson, who for the past decade had been campaigning for the release of political prisoners, has become one himself. Mahesh Raut, the youngest of those arrested, a committed former PMRD Fellow who was campaigning for the democratisation of Gram Sabhas in Gadchiroli, will see his finest years snatched away.

The entire operation has been stage-managed by the Maharashtra government keeping in mind two things. First, to suppress the judicial inquiry headed by the retired Justice J N Patel in order to ensure that submissions from the victims of Hindutva and state violence on January 1 at Bhima-Koregaon, and after the successful Maharashtra bandh called by Dalit groups on January 3, are suppressed. Secondly, this is a desperate act to queer the pitch for the forthcoming elections in the state as well as Centre in 2019. Thus, the BJP government is desperate to create a reign of terror in order to polarise the Dalit and Bahujan votes. And also to create a terror narrative, thereby protecting the real terror culprits — Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote — who will ensure votes for the BJP.

There have been widespread protests throughout the country against the repressive actions of the Maharashtra and central governments, bringing to mind the days of the Emergency and foreboding the days of fascism in Europe in the 1940s. Organisations like CPDR, IAPL, PUCL, Amnesty International have strongly condemned this open show of state terror and complete bypassing of the rule of law by the government and have demanded the immediate release of Advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawle, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut.

In the words of Surendra Gadling’s wife, Minal:

“When the police reached our house on June 6 at 6 am, my husband was told that he was under arrest. The police team was led by an officer whose sole purpose was to humiliate my husband. He was not allowed to take his clothes, medicines or toiletries. I pleaded with them saying he is under treatment and that if he suffers any medical emergency, then they would be responsible. My pleas had no effect on them.

When they took Surendra away, they did not inform me where they were taking him

When they took Surendra away, they did not inform me where they were taking him. They did not give me the phone number of the officer who I could contact. Later on, I came to know, this is the duty of the police officer arresting anyone. That the nearest relative has to be informed under what sections he is being arrested, where he is being taken and when he would be produced in court. And also that a contact number of the police officer has to be given to the nearest relative. In Surendra’s case, none of this was done. Despite the fact that he is a lawyer.

I next heard about Surendra at 8 pm when some lawyers met him. They did not tell me that he was admitted in Sassoon hospital. That is because he expressly told them not to, as he thought that I would get worried. But when his condition deteriorated, he himself got the police to call me and he asked me to come to Pune. I reached Pune from Nagpur on the morning of June 9. Surendra’s sister Darshana, who is a matron in Byculla Railway Hospital, also arrived from Mumbai. We too were given very bad treatment. We were allowed to meet him briefly and we learnt that he had been transferred to MCR (magisterial custody remand) and that he was being taken for angiography. The whole of the next day we were not allowed to meet him. On Monday, June 11 at 3 pm, the police officials took him away. They said that he was being taken to Yerwada jail. I asked them to wait till the medical reports came as he is a patient and to allow him to take a bag of clothes, medicines and toiletries which I had brought for him from Nagpur. They did not even allow that.

I don’t know what these people have against Surendra. It is inhuman the way they have been treating him from the day of his arrest on June 6. If anything happens to my husband, all these police persons will be responsible.”

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India -PM assassination plot: There are holes in this bucket of conspiracy theories

It is silly that the police authorities did not consider all the discrepancies in their theories before linking Dalits to Maoists

Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Ravindra Kadam, Pune’s joint commissioner for law and order speaks during a press conference regarding the arrest of five persons with Maoist links on June 7, 2018.
Ravindra Kadam, Pune’s joint commissioner for law and order speaks during a press conference regarding the arrest of five persons with Maoist links on June 7, 2018.(HT Photo)

It beggars belief that the Maharashtra police, which has not been able to crack the killings of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare five and four years after their respective murders by some motorcycle riders, should now be able to uncover a plot by some Dalit activists to assassinate Narendra Modi in a ‘Rajiv Gandhi type of killing’. It pushes the seams of credibility that that plot was outlined in a letter to each other, left conveniently lying around for the police to discover in searches at their homes so that they may implicate themselves in a crime of such dastardly proportions.

Firstly, when Maoists wiped out the entire Congress leadership in Chhattisgarh exactly five years ago, no intelligence agency had any clue. Secondly, Maoists ambush with mines, they rarely indulge in suicide bombings. And then there is the fact that Maharashtra DGP, Satish Mathur, has denied that the police has leaked or made any letter viral on social media and yet it is being widely circulated on all platforms. If that letter is genuine, there has been a clear security breach within the state police that it should be on social media before they have put it in the public domain.

But what is a dead giveaway about the alleged lack of its authenticity is that the Dalit activists greet each other with ‘Red Salute’. Even the Maharashtra police would know that the preferred greeting of Dalits is ‘Jai Bhim’. Even if they are left-leaning, their Ambedkarite proclivities are far stronger than any commitment to leftism. And committed left workers never would say ‘Red Salute’. Lal Salaam is what they say and understand. Red Salute seems like the imagination of a mechanical translator who has no clue about the Indian and left ethos in the country – like the time I had to edit a vacuous translator’s gems like Indian People’s Party for the Bharatiya Janata Party or, even better, when a particular person was described as Development God Priest. That needed some head-scratching before I realised the name was simply Vikas Deopujari. Obviously, the translator was using Google rather than his own intelligence and I think that is what has happened with this letter, too. Even so, if the letter was written in Marathi or Hindi and translated with the Google tool, Dalit and left activities would know to change back Red Salute to Lal Salaam. So now, I am very suspicious about the origins of the letters and the conspiracy hatched.

But why I am not surprised at the conspiracy is because I have known for years that at least in Vidarbha, which is thick with both Ambedkarites and Naxalites, the police have been attempting to link Dalit activists to Maoists in Gadchiroli for years. And yet, never have they been able to uncover any Maoist plots to kill even their own police officers before they have been mine-trapped in the jungles and blown to bits. In the few successes they have had in trapping Maoists, none have been established as Dalit activists. Moreover, among those arrested is an activist who has been contesting zilla parishad and panchayat samiti elections in Gadchiroli, which the Maoists do not believe in. They have also been winning those elections in the face of threats by Maoists for participating in the democratic process goes against their grain. Dalits, however, are fiercely committed to the democratic process; it is part of their DNA simply because of Dr BR Ambedkar’s association with the Constitution of India.

So it is silly that the police authorities did not consider all the discrepancies in their theories before linking Dalits to Maoists. Dalit activists are naturally left-leaning because of the nature of their struggle against right-wing bigotry and upper caste discrimination over the centuries. But to attribute sinister motives to them just because they were sympathetic to the Bhima-Koregaon movement, I believe, is going too far, at a time when the Pune police have access to video footage of those riots and know very well who the provocateurs were but are unable to take action because those perpetrators are covered by political patronage.

There are too many holes in the police theory for anyone to believe the linkage between Dalit activists and Maoists. And while the letter conspiracy case by the police is already falling apart and may not stand up in court, the political fallout of selectively framing Dalit activists could be very, very huge indeed.

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India- One in Three Adivasis Fear Being Framed for Maoist Activities


Representational image of Indian Police | Commons


A survey by NGO Common Cause and Lokniti shows Adivasis are most afraid of being framed for Maoist activities, while Dalits are afraid of being falsely accused of petty thefts.

New Delhi: The sense of being discriminated against by police is strongest among Muslims, especially those in Bihar, said a study that seeks to analyse the perception about police along state and community lines.

The survey was carried out by NGO Common Cause and Lokniti, a research initiative of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), among 15,563 respondents across 22 states in June and July 2017.

“Among the total number of respondents, 26 per cent of Muslims were of the view that police discriminated on the basis of religion, while less than 18 per cent of Hindus and 16 per cent of Sikhs thought the same,” the report added.

The researchers also discovered that as many as 44 per cent of Indians were fearful of being beaten up by police, a finding reported by ThePrint Monday in the first of its series of reports on the study.

According to the survey, over 47 per cent of Muslims across the country said they feared being falsely accused of terrorist activities. Trying to explain the perception, the researchers cited the “large proportion” of Muslims in the country’s jails. This sentiment was said to be most widely prevalent in Telangana.

The percentage of Muslims in jails is higher than the community’s share in the population of India, a fact, critics said, that stems from an alleged “systemic bias” against them.

The 2011 census pegged the Muslim population at 14.23 per cent; and, in 2014, the government told Rajya Sabha that people from the community comprised 16.68 per cent of convicts and 21.05 per cent of undertrials.

What Adivasis and Dalits fear

The report suggested a similar fear among the Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis) and the Scheduled Castes (Dalits). According to the survey, 27 per cent of the Adivasis said they feared being framed for anti-state Maoist activities, while 35 per cent of Dalits held a similar fear regarding petty thefts.

“Nearly two in every five… respondents said police falsely implicated members of backward castes such as Dalits in petty crimes including theft, robbery, dacoity,” the report said.

“One in four… was of the opinion that such a false implication of Adivasis and Muslims did occur,” it added.

The results of the survey also suggested a perception that caste-based discrimination among police personnel was most prevalent in Bihar, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

It said people were more likely to report class-based discriminatory attitudes of police, followed by gender- and caste-based discrimination.

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India -Why the letter about a ‘Rajiv Gandhi-type’ assassination plot to kill Modi is fake

The purpose is to create a political narrative to divert attention from the Bhima Koregaon probe.


The sinister sensationalism around the arrests of advocate Surendra Gadling, professor Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut, as alleged Maoists, is rising to shriller heights with a new letter being released by the media every other day.

These so-called letters, which have been refused to the defence lawyers of those arrested, are being freely “leaked” and being read out on live television. The sole purpose seems to be to whip up a false narrative, favourable to the current regime. Sidetracking the demands of the Dalit movements to punish the Hindutva leaders and the organisations responsible for the attacks of January 1, 2018 on the congregation at Bhima Koregaon can be another probable purpose.

Bizarre ‘disclosures’ 

We have had an ample amount of personal experience of bizarre “disclosures” by investigating authorities at the time of our arrests. The so-called evidence is leaked to the press and wild allegations are made, which promptly disappear at the time of trial.

Meanwhile, the media trial on prime time television commences and builds upon a false narrative to create a fanciful impression on the minds of people at large.

The actual courtroom trial will later show that there was not even an ounce of truth in the stories told, but no attempt will be made by the media to correct the wrong notions they originally created.

When Arun Ferreira, the co-author of the piece, was arrested in May 2007, the press was told that he was the “communications chief” of the CPI (Maoist). That he and his co-accused were planning a bomb blast at the Deeksha Bhoomi in Nagpur.

The media went to town with it. But during the trial, which lasted for more than four years, there was not even a single attempt to mention either of these charges, leave aside producing any evidence to support them.

The accusation in 2007 of planning an attack is today mirrored by a vague submission of a patently fabricated letter that supposedly suggests a “Rajiv Gandhi-type plot”.

At the trial stage, this is bound to disappear into thin air. But at the media trial stage, it has already become a “plot” to assassinate the prime minister, one more in a long line of such stories.

When Vernon Gonsalves, the other co-author of the piece, was arrested in August 2007, he was claimed to be in charge of the finances of the Maoists. A delegation which approached the then home minister of Maharashtra, RR Patil, on Vernon’s behalf, was told by the then ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi that they had evidence of numerous bank accounts with huge funds.

The trial went on for almost six years without any evidence regarding the funds being ever brought before the court. In fact, the money that the police claimed to have found with Vernon’s co-accused was ordered by the court to be given back to him.


Who’s funding the Maoists is more significant 

Today, the accusations regarding money are somewhat more farcical.

The claim is that the Congress funded the Maoists, who, in turn, funded the Elgar Parishad of the Bhima Koregaon Prerna Abhiyan.

Before going into the absurdity of this charge, it would be wise to remember a similar story was built around the time of Arun Ferreira’s arrest.

During his narco analysis, he was reported to have said, “Bal Thackeray and his party Shiv Sena and the BJP student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had given us funds on regular occasions for Maoists activities in Mumbai.”

Of course, nothing regarding this was ever brought before the courts by the prosecution. We should expect the same regarding today’s allegations.

However, there is one major difference in today’s scenario.

At that time, the report of funding of the Maoists by the Shiv Sena and ABVP appeared less than a year before the 2009 general elections and the Maharashtra Elections. But it was not made an issue by the then ruling UPA government. They probably well realised the absurdity of the report and the flimsiness of its evidential value and did not want to shame themselves by claiming any authenticity for it.

This is not the case now. We had none less than the national spokesperson of the BJP, Sambit Patra, addressing a half-hour-long press conference on a blatantly false letter, implying that the Congress was funding the Maoists through Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani.

Performing at his histrionic best, Patra said, “Congress is allying with banned outfits to spread chaos and anarchy in the country.”

Letters poorly fabricated, full of contradictions

The so-called letter requires only a bare reading to see its poorly fabricated nature. The prosecution advocate realised this too well, which explains why he did not give it to the defence lawyers, as it would expose before the court the specious nature of their allegations.

Such considerations do not, however, exist in media trials.

Patra’s copy of the letter he displayed at the press conference seemed well researched and was highlighted in various colours.

But he deliberately remained silent on the glaring contradiction between the date mentioned in the very first sentence of the fabricated letter and the one mentioned at the end.

It is supposed to be a letter, conveniently dated January 2, 2018, the day after the violent attacks on the congregation at Bhima Koregaon.

Its first sentence, however, refers to an “upcoming fact finding of December 6”.

Both Patra and Times Now, the channel which first released this letter, spent considerable time to lay great stress on the purported date of the letter, but made no attempt to explain how a letter dated January 2 could ever refer to December 6 as an “upcoming” date.

It is obvious that this discrepancy appears because of a hasty fabrication. The rules of media trials require a quiet cover-up.

The rest of the letter also offers numerous indications of its frankly fictitious character, but it is not our purpose here to go into all of them.

Perhaps one more point would suffice. The letter casually mentions the actual names of several persons, including of those arrested.

It is a known fact, which has long been stressed by the police, too, that all Naxalites take aliases, and only such alias names are used in communication between them. This is a practice even among the Maoist parties abroad, such as in Nepal and in the Philippines.

The former Jharkhand director-general of police, GS Rath, who dealt mainly with intelligence on Maoists from 2000 to 2013, has been quoted to say, “In my career, I never came across Maoists using original names in communications. They stuck to aliases.”

Thus, it is a contradiction in terms to claim that a letter is written by underground members of a secret party and at the same time to claim that the original names of the persons have been used.

The other letters are even more ridiculous.

One lists out the names of the persons supposedly involved in intra-organisational contradictions, court cases, courier work, arms purchases, and then proposes an assassination plot, all in one breath… phew!

It has been lampooned enough to merit more attention. Even a senior politician like Sharad Pawar has said, ” I spoke to a retired police officer, who had worked for CID. He said there is no substance in the letter. The letter is being used to garner people’s sympathy.”

Another, an outlandish caricature of a threat letter to the Maharashtra CM, is only in the hands of select media houses.

A prime time television anchor has selectively read out from it prominent names like that of Varavara Rao and Shoma Sen, without making the least attempt to provide any logical reason why any threat letter would ever carry any names.

Tampering of evidence

Another farce, however, is the claim that the letters now circulating in the media are letters recovered by forensic means from the hard disks of computers and laptops that have been shown to be seized.

As per the procedure of the criminal law and the law of evidence, the electronic apparatus seized during any raid is required to be sealed and sent to a government forensic laboratory. It is only after the forensic report certifies that the files extracted comply with the provisions of the Evidence Act for acceptance as electronic evidence that such files or documents can be used in a court of law.

The very act of the Pune Police of addressing a press conference and announcing that they have extracted letters and emails from the laptop of Rona Wilson’s computer vitiates the procedure for presenting such letters as evidence in a trial.

The police or the court has not received any such report from the forensic laboratory. Such reports commonly take several years to reach the courts. In Arun’s case, the forensic report took almost three years. In Vernon’s case, it reached the court after five years.

Thus, the claim of the police that they extracted files on their own implies that they were tampering with a device that was supposed to be sealed and sent to a laboratory.

Such tampering could very easily include insertion of fabricated documents that are now being shared with the press.

The possibility of tampering renders the media letters unacceptable as evidence in the court of law.

But that does not seem to concern the police authorities or their political masters.

The purpose is to create a fake political narrative. By the time it reaches the court, that purpose would have been achieved.

It would be of no consequence to the state whether the case was won or lost. The media trial would have been conclusively won with all the political dividends it could bring.

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‘Plot to kill Modi’ or state propaganda? Here are 5 questions on the probe

'Plot to kill Modi' or state propaganda? Here are 5 questions on the probe
CHARU KARTIKEYA 9 June 2018, 18:05 IST

‘Plot to kill Modi’ or state propaganda? Here are 5 questions on the probe

Even as twitter is roasting the PM-assassination-plot theory and its proponents, it is important to note that the way this narrative is being built is exactly how state propaganda works.

At first, the state turns a blind eye to allegations leveled against its agents. When the heat begins to rise, a campaign is unleashed to reverse the narrative. Opponents of the regime are hunted, barely-provable evidence is produced from thin air and is labeled incriminating.

The state and its agencies do not wait for public acceptance of the narrative which is swiftly moving from one conclusion to the next. The complainants are eventually branded as enemies of the state, making it easy for the law to swoop down on them and for the state to manufacture public disapproval.

Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, leaders of radical Hindutva outfits, are accused of instigating large-scale violence during a Dalit congregation in Pune’s Bhima-Koregaon on January 1 and 2 this year. The violence killed one man, besides injuring several others.

While Ekbote was arrested but is now out on bail, Bhide continues to be unreachable for the fabled long arm of the law. Meanwhile, an entire bunch of activists dedicated to fighting battles for Dalits and tribals is arrested.

A letter is produced, purportedly recovered from the laptop of the one of the accused. The prosecution lawyer reads out the letter in court after which, only the ruling party’s spokespersons get access to it. They read it out on TV and publish excerpts on social media.

The letter talks about Maoists and openly mentions information about their plans, meetings, funding as well as criminal projects. Those arrested are also promptly labeled Maoists.

Even before you can come to terms with that, the narrative changes once again. The alleged Maoists, it is explained, could have been out to kill the prime minister! Boom, everything changes.

Because the narrative is moving very fast, it is hard for people to pause and reflect. Questions fade into oblivion and propaganda takes over.

Behind the arrests by Pune Police and the facts that have been put forth since then are a series of questions that have not been satisfactorily addressed. Take a look at these –

FIR in January, raids in April, arrests in June – None of the five arrested so far were named in the original FIR, lodged in January 2018. Firstly, Police is yet to explain what led to the probe zeroing down on them. Secondly, what explains the three-month delay in the raids and then again the two-month delay in arrests?

The mysterious letters – The only ‘incriminating’ evidence that the police and prosecution team have furnished so far are two letters which they claim are Maoist communication. While the contents of the letters have been made public, police is yet to reveal even details like what has been done to establish their authenticity? Are unauthenticated letters incriminating enough to allow police to make arrests?

Flimsy content – The contents of these letters coupled with the manner in which they are being bandied about have created an air of incredulity about them. Does one expect underground organisations to be so casual about using open letters and entirely un-coded language to talk about things like funds, weapons, meetings, strategy and a plot as dark as assassination of the prime minister?

Access of BJP leaders to letters – BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had been able to access the first of these letters on just the day after the arrests were made. Waving the letter during his press conference, he arrived at convenient political conclusions, making wild allegations. Even as hearings on the case were going on, Patra had given his and his party’s judgment. If this doesn’t smack of conspiracy, what does?

Swift transition of the narrative to the Modi assassination plot – The genesis of the entire episode has now receded to the background. The violence in Bhima-Koregaon is not being talked about now. The focus of discourse is a purported plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the objective being to help his government and his party gain public sympathy. Why are no questions being asked about this strange course the police probe has taken?

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