Despite all controversies, programme to be held again on Jan 12, but Kabir Kala Manch plans to keep distance

Squaring off against the much-debated controversy surrounding the Elgaar Parishad event held in December 2017, organisers have decided the programme will take place this year as well. Further, the main agenda this time will directly take on the extreme Right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and will be titled ‘RSS Mukt Bharat’.

Interestingly, while retired Justice BG Kolse Patil has taken the lead in organising the conference, the Left-leaning Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) has decided to maintain a distance from it, in the backdrop of several arrests made and cases filed against their own members in recent months.

The event — which began half a decade ago and is in its third edition this time — is the brainchild of Kolse Patil and retired Justice PB Sawant.

On December 31 last year, various organisations had come together to mark the 200th year anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima during the Elgaar Parishad, including not just KKM, but also the Sambhaji Brigade and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh. Leaders and activists Jignesh Mewani, Umar Khalid, Radhika Vemula, Soni Sori and Prakash Ambedkar were the main speakers invited to take part.

However, things took an unfortunate turn after the violence that erupted at Koregaon Bhima a day later, following which Pune city police claimed that the banned CPI (Maoist) had funded the programme and helped organise it for the recruitment of what they dub ‘Urban Naxals’. Thereafter, in June, cops had arrested activists Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, and Rona Wilson, as also booked activists Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varvara Rao in August, based on a first information report (FIR) filed by Right-wing activist Tushar Damgude.

Despite all these obstacles, Elgaar Parishad will return a year down the line. It had received a huge response last year due to the prolific attendance and the connect to Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din (commemorating the historic battle). And so, organisers are confident they will receive a similar response this time, too.

The conference is being organised on January 12, under the banner of ‘Save The Constitution’. Kolse Patil told Mirror, “We will go ahead with it once more. Considering that permission could be denied, we have decided to move the Bombay High Court. We have a straight agenda — a pledge for an ‘RSS Mukt Bharat’, to be taken by whomsoever chooses to be present. It is also important to note that we have been organising this event with a similar agenda in the past as well — it was only last year that we got affiliated with various other bodies and decided to celebrate the 200th year of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima.”

Meanwhile, given recent events, KKM will maintain a distance. Speaking to Mirror on condition of anonymity, a Manch member shared, “We have decided to not participate, considering everything that has happened. But, we will help them if they ask for it.”

Meanwhile, commenting on the developments, RSS spokesperson Mahesh Karpe said, “Everyone knows how the Koregaon Bhima riots happened, what Elgaar Parishad is and what its aims are. We will not directly oppose the programme, but continue creating awareness about it. No one should organise any event that creates a divide in society. RSS will try to ensure that nothing of this sort happens.”