He and four others were held from different places in the country for their role in inciting people that led to the violence at Bhima-Koregaon in January

Dalit activists associated with the 'yalgar parishad' holding a protest placard at Sudhir Dhawale’s office in Govandi after the Mumbai police arrested him there.
Dalit activists associated with the ‘yalgar parishad’ holding a protest placard at Sudhir Dhawale’s office in Govandi after the Mumbai police arrested him there.(HT Photo)

Sudhir Dhawale, who was arrested from Govandi for alleged Maoist links, is an “activist fighting against Dalit atrocities” and “innocent”, claimed the members of his group, Republican Panthers Caste Annihilation Movement.

Neighbours and supporters of dalit activist-editor Sudhir Dhawale protested his arrest by the police Wednesday morning. They said that they had been at the receiving end ever since the Elgar Parishad meeting in Pune on December 31 last year and the violence that erupted at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018. They said that the arrest was nothing but an addition to their existing misery.

Supporters of Mr Dhawale thronged outside the Deonar police station, demanding answers and the release of Mr Dhawale. They claimed that he had been wrongly arrested and that the main culprits were still out and about. The supporters said that injustice had been done to Mr Dhawale as he had done nothing wrong.

One of Mr Dhawale’s supporters, Kishan More (58), told The Asian Age, “This is all planning and plotting against the backward classes of society, and these arrests are aimed at further demeaning the lower castes. The Bhim Nagar area has been under constant scrutiny and the people are under the radar, making us feel like criminals.”

During Mr Dhawale’s interrogation inside the Deonar police station, his supporters and neighbours stood outside in groups, blocking entry and exit.

When the police politely asked them to make way, they maintained, “We are all law-abiding citizens, and have never broken a law. However when it comes to us, we are conveniently sidelined. Does a different rule apply to us?”

Mr Dhawale’s well-wishers flocked to his Bhim Nagar residence-cum-office, too. One of the neighbours said, “It was completely unethical and immoral, and we strongly condemn this abrupt arrest of one of our people

“Dhawale has been actively participating in protests since Rohith Vemula’s death and against the atrocities meted out against Dalits. He has been framed to save the real perpetrators behind the Bhima-Koregaon violence,” Sharad Gaikwad, president of the movement told HT from Govandi, where Dhawale was picked up at 6am by a team from the Pune police.

Dhawale and four others were held from different places in the country for their role in inciting people that led to the violence at Bhima-Koregaon in January after a first information report was lodged against them at Pune’s Vishram Baug police station.

Dhawale was earlier booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2011. “He was jailed for 40 months from January 2, 2011 till May 15, 2014 when a sessions court released him,” said Gaikwad.

A day before the violence, a ‘yalgar parishad’ was held in the historic Shaniwar Wada area of Pune to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon in which the army of Peshwa Bajirao II was defeated by the East India Company, whose regiment comprised of a large number of Mahar Dalits.

The conference saw power-packed speeches by several prominent personalities, including newly-elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid and Radhika Vemula.

“It was at this parishad when we pledged to not vote for the BJP,” said Gaikwad. “They have now made a story (of his Naxal links). He was innocent during his arrest in 2011 and he is innocent now as well. He has penned down books and notes of our movement which is now being portrayed as Naxal material.”

Gaikwad also said people’s attention was being diverted from the Bhima-Koregaon probe to Dhawale’s arrest. “A fear is being created in people’s minds against Dhawale by branding him a Naxal.”

HT

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