Maharashtra raids on Dalit activists: Over-zealous cops seize works by Ambedkar, Phule, anything "rebellious"

Surendra Gadling
By Our Representative
The recent police raids on the homes of well-known human rights activists and a senior lawyer in Pune on the pretext of gathering information about their alleged complicity in fomenting the Bhima Koregaon violence on January 1, 2018 and the subsequent bandh is all set to snowball into a major crisis in the state. Things may acquire political colour, as the Maharashtra Chief Minister has qualified the raids as an there was suspicion of "Maoist links".
The controversy would further deepen, as a 19-year-old Dalit woman, a witness in the clashes at Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra, was found dead in a well on April 21.
On January 1, an event to mark 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in Pune district, was marred by incidents of violence, with at least one person getting killed and vehicles torched. The violence had spread to several areas including Mumbai, Aurangabad and Pune.
The Pune police conducted simultaneous searches on April 17, 2018 starting in wee hours of the morning at homes of prominent Dalit rights activists in Maharashtra, including Harshali Potdar of the Republican Panthers, Sagar Gorkhe and Rupali Jadhav of the Kabir Kala Manch activists. The Pune police also conducted search at the residence of senior advocate Surendra Gadling, who is based in Nagpur.
Noting that the combing operations are meant to target innocent members of the Dalit community, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a Mumbai-based human rights organization led by prominent social activist Teesta Setalvad, has said that Gadling's house was raided "though his name doesn’t even appear in any FIRs that list accused the Bhima Koregaon programme."
Harshali Potdar with her team
The police raid was carried out by eight officers supported by over 100 security personnel. "Gadling's house was cordoned off from all sides and a dramatic scene was created with all the vehicles parked in the vicinity so as to create a scary picture in the minds of onlookers and neighbours. Gadling argued with the police about unnecessary deployment of forces, after which some of them left the spot", notes CJP.
Says CJP, during the ‘search operations’, "in the name of seizing incriminating material, police seized all possible compact discs, including CDs of wedding and birthday celebrations, software program CDs, Project Law (which has compilation of judgment collected by him over period of 25 years), Bollywood movie CDs, videos of Khairlanji agitation, fake encounter fact-finding videos, etc."
CJP adds, "They took away hard discs of all the computers in the family. Gadling shares his house with his elder brother and hard discs pertaining to his niece’s computer used for educational purposes were also taken away. Computers that were in use by his juniors to do research and drafting work were also seized. Though Gadling requested not to seize educational material on the computer hard-disc, all such requests were refused by the authorities."
Kabir Kala Manch activists
Giving reasons for targetting Gadling, CJP says, he has been "instrumental in fighting cases of various activists and people from marginalized sections, especially Dalits, tribals, workers from various backgrounds. Being a Dalit himself, Gadling played a crucial role in the pursuit of justice in the aftermath of Khairlanji massacres, Ramabai Nagar agitations, cases pertaining to fake encounters etc."
Pointing out that Gadling was also appointed as special public prosecutor by the state government in some gender violence cases, CJP says, "He played a major role in cases related to backward communities, in defense of reservation, and of independence of judiciary. He was instrumental in organizing many mass awareness public meetings in the court and outside alike. He has conducted many fact findings in association with senior retired High Court and Supreme Court judges."
Continues CJP, "Gadling played a significant role in defending those incarcerated under draconian laws of TADA, POTA and UA(P)A, including that of Sudhir Dhavale, Prof GN Saibaba, even as defending rights of tribals arrested by police under fabricated FIRs."
Sudhir Dhavale
CJP quotes Harshali Potdar as saying that, during the the police raid on morning of April 17 on his office, “not only materials of the Bhima Koregaon programme, but also booklets in Marathi and Hindi on Rohit Vemula’s institutional murder entitled ‘Who killed Rohit Vemula’ brought out by the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice-Mumbai were seized.”
Potdar, says CJP, has played "a crucial role in the anti-caste movement in Maharashtra, leading from the front on various occasions. She is convener of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Social Justice, Maharashtra. JACs for social justice emerged in various parts of the country to confront the issues of caste based discrimination in university campuses after Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder in January 2016."
Rupali Jadhav is quoted as saying that the police raids on her house, along with that of Sagar Gorkhe, led to the seizure of the "booklets and pamphlets that they possessed which had been brought out by the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerana Abhiyan, a coalition of 260 mass organisations that had conducted the programme. The absurdity of the search and seizure can be seen in the fact that they have even seized all the works of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Savitribai Phule, among others, where they found such words like ‘vidroh’ (rebellion)."

Comments

Hasan said…
Knowledge per se in itself is rebellious!!! 😊