by- Women Against Sexual  Violence



WSS condemns the wave of state repression following the peaceful

commemoration of the Ambedkarite community on the 200th anniversary of

the battle of Bhima Koregaon. The most recent wave of repression is a

set of raids without a warrant conducted simultaneously at 6 am on 17

April, 2018, upon the homes of Kabir Kala Manch activists Rupali

Jadhav, Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe and Dhawala Dhengle

in Pune; Republican Panther activists Sudhir Dhavale and Harshali

Potdar in Mumbai; and Nagpur-based lawyer Surendra Gadling and

Delhi-based CRPP activist Rona Wilson. Rupali and Jyoti are also

members of WSS and staunch feminist activists.


January 1, 2018 marks 200 years since the battle between the Peshwas

and the British fought across the banks of the Bhima river in the

village of Koregaon, close to Pune in Maharashtra. The British

regiment consisted of a large number of soldiers from the Mahar

community. Their fight against the Peshwas was commemorated by

Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar as a historic blow dealt to the

notoriously casteist Peshwa regime. It has since then been observed

annually on January 1 by Ambedkarites all over the country who gather

at the monument erected by the British at the site that bears the

names of the soldiers martyred there to pay their respect.


On the evening of 31 December, 2017, a broad platform of activists

came together as the  Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan and

organized an ‘Elgaar Parishad’ in Shaniwarwada, Pune, to protest

against Nava Peshwai, the new forms and systems of caste

discrimination and Hindutva fascism emerging today. They planned to

later proceed to Koregaon to salute the martyrs. The spontaneous

mobilization at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018 was even larger than

usual because of the 200th year anniversary, and as always, was

conducted peacefully and in an orderly manner. Moreover, many members

of the Elgaar Parishad and some invited speakers could not even

proceed as planned due to security concerns.


The reaction of right wing organizations and the state to immediately

file legal charges against some members of the Parishad and speakers

at the event, as well as mass arrests of Dalits in and around Pune

demonstrated the new face of Peshwai. The ensuing saffron violence

simply proved what the organizers were focusing on which is that there

is a Nava Peshwai or Brahmanical Hindutwa rule in the country today.

This was an attack on a community’s claiming of history that portrays

the caste reality in a grave light complicating a simple anti colonial

narrative. Crowds of individuals brandishing saffron flags were

captured on video attacking people near the memorial, and in the

ensuring violence one person, Rahul Fatangale, died while three people

were injured. There were media reports stating that stones were

pelted, cars bearing Ambedkarite signs were burnt, and the Buddhist

Panchsheel flag was stamped upon; however most media outlets did not

cover this and reported these as generic clashes without

contextualizing them. The violence is thought to have begun in the

village of Vadhu Budruk where some people vandalized the tombs of

Shivaji’s son Sambhaji, and that of Gaikwad, a Dalit man who is said

to have defied Aurangzeb’s order to provide the last rites for

Sambhaji when he was killed by Aurangzeb. Violence then spread to

several areas in Maharashtra and mass arrests were reported, including

arrests of people from the Dalit community who were peacefully

traveling to and from Bhima Koregaon.


Following this, a peaceful Maharashtra bandh was called for by Prakash

Ambedkar and endorsed by Dalit, OBC, Muslim and Maratha groups across

the state, naming the divisive politics of Hindutva as its target and

proclaiming the unity of all these groups. It was observed on a mass

scale on January 3 throughout Maharashtra, unprecedented since the

Ramabai Nagar police firing in 1997, with peaceful sit-ins and marches

throughout. However, at several places, there were mass arrests of

peaceful protesters, with around 5000 arrests all across Maharashtra,

especially in Aurangabad, Nanded and Mumbai. While the police claim

have only arrested “miscreants”, reports say that some arrests were

made of people in their homes, and many of the arrestees include

minors. This repression was barely reported in the media, which chose

instead to focus on the inconvenience caused by the bandh. This

casteist media blackout reflects the manuvadi nervousness in the face

of a growing and increasingly confident Dalit assertion, as well as

fear that just as is in the past,  Marathas, OBC and Muslims had

united in this commemoration and stood against Nava Peshwai. For

example, Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha organisation actively

participated in the campaign as well as the protests following the

violent attacks by Hindutwa forces. A few days later an FIR under

sections 153A, 505(1), 117 and 34 of IPC was filed against the

organizers and speakers at the Elgaar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon.

Meanwhile it must be noted that both the homes of Surendra Gadling in

Nagpur and Rona Wilson in Delhi were searched without a warrant based

on a court order relating to the FIR filed against Elgar Parishad

organizers, despite neither having been named in the FIR. This

suggests that the FIR is being used as an excuse to attack activists.


Media reports suggest another 5000 people have been booked in cases

across Maharashtra! It is a matter of great concern and irony that

serious cases under the Amended Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe

(Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 2016 and inciting violence and

rioting, filed against Brahmin right-wing ideologues have been not

acted upon, while so many thousands of people from marginalized

communities have been booked and arrested in a draconian manner.  For

example, one of the men accused of fomenting the violence, Sambhaji

Bhide, has still not been arrested despite a case being booked on

serious charges of rioting, attempt to murder and sections of the

SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and Arms Act. The other accused,

Milind Ekbote, was arrested after a prolonged mass mobilization and

legal battle in which his multiple applications for anticipatory bail

were denied at the Sessions and High court level, and his interim bail

from the Supreme Court was only canceled after he repeatedly refused

to cooperate with the investigation. In fact, the seizure of pen

drives, hard drives and laptops by the police has had the effect of

depriving the activists of all the video and other forms of evidence

they had amassed indicating the involvement of Sambhaji Bhide in

fomenting the violence at Bhima Koregaon. Along with the attack on

Ambedkar press, the dilution of the SC/ST atrocity act, the mass

violence and incarceration of men from dalit communities after

the nation-wide Bharat Band mobilization, and the state

sanction for rapes perpetrated and justified by BJP MLAs, these can be

read as a clear strike against the survival and self determination of

historically marginalized castes and communities, with impunity

guaranteed to the perpetrators.


Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression condemns this

crackdown and the role this state repression has played in

unilaterally repressing the communities struggling against casteism,

while giving a free hand to the Nava Peshwai right wing forces that

have incited violence and instigated divisive politics against

marginalized communities.


We demand:

  1. An end to the state repression and a withdrawal of the FIR lodged against the

activists who organized or spoke at the Elgaar Parishad, and an end to the use of

the related court order being used against activists not even present at the Parishad.

  1. A high-level investigation into the widespread violence organized

against dalit, OBC and muslim communities in the aftermath of the

Bhima-Koregaon commemoration.

Immediate action must be taken against Sambhaji Bhide upon serious

charges of rioting, attempt to murder and the SC/ST Prevention of

Atrocities Act.




April 2018