Sudhir Dhawale — the Dalit activist who recently walked free after three years in prison for allegedly being a naxal supporter — is back in Mumbai, where he edits a Marathi periodical Vidrohi; he says he is even more determined, after his acquittal, to continue his fight against caste discrimination in Maharashtra.
The court in Gondia which tried him observed that the revolutionary material recovered from his house in Mumbai as a follow-up to the case was ‘open source material.’
The activist, who in 2007 had launched the ‘Republican Panther Jati Antachi Chalwal’ a movement for eradication of caste in Maharashtra, is acerbic about how the government comes down on such activists and books them by stamping them as naxal supporters.
He dismisses the ‘Tanta Mukt Gaon Abhiyan’ (disputefree village project) in the state, mooted by the Congress-NCP government, as nothing short of a ‘khaap’, dominated by the upper class or NCP workers who have a nexus with local police. “This ensures that atrocities against Dalits and the oppressed don’t get reported,” he told Mirror.
A critic of both the Congress-NCP and BJP governments, Dhawale feels that Dalits and the backward people would find no change emerging with the arrival of the right-wing BJP government at the Centre.
“Both the Congress and the BJP have fascist agendas and are casteist. While people criticise Modi for what he did in Gujarat, what the Congress did to Sikhs during 1984 riots is no different,” Dhawale says.
Dhawale, a native of Nagpur, now settled in Mumbai, was attending the third Ambedkarite Sahitya Sammelan at Wardha in January 2011, when he was arrested by a joint team of ATS and ANO at Wardha railway station. Post his arrest, political leaders and social activists like Prakash Ambedkar, N P Patil, J V Pawar, Urmila Pawar, Anant Patwardhan met R R Patil to protest.
According to Gondia police, a surrendered naxal admitted to meeting Dhawale during a gathering of naxalites at a church in Vasai in 2006.
“Patil was so confident about my involvement as a naxal supporter that he told the delegation he would apologise to the state if I were to be acquitted. No apology has come so far from Patil,” Dhawale remarks.
At Bhandara, and subsequently at Nagpur jail, Dhawale said he came across 60-70 tribals who had been falsely charged with being naxal supporters, due to feeding naxalites who visited their villages. The tribals were so poor they had no one to fight their cases and their families could not afford to visit them in jail.
Fortunately, a group of advocates from the region have reached out to them to fight their cases. A PIL was also filed by a social activist from Nagpur, following which the government promised to set up a commission to probe false cases against them. But nothing has come up so far.