2018 Bhima Koregaon violence

The 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence refers to violence during an annual celebratory gathering on 1 January 2018 at Bhima Koregaon to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.[1] The violence and stone pelting by crowd on the gathering resulted in death of a 28-year old youth and injury to five others.[2] The annual celebration, also called Elgar Parishad convention, was organised by retired justices B. G. Kolse Patil[3] and P. B. Sawant.[4] Justice P. B. Sawant claimed that the term "Elgar" meant loud invitation or loud declaration.[5]

2018 Dalit protests in Maharashtra
Bhima Koregaon protests
Date01 January 2018
Location
18°38′44″N 074°03′33″E / 18.64556°N 74.05917°E / 18.64556; 74.05917Coordinates: 18°38′44″N 074°03′33″E / 18.64556°N 74.05917°E / 18.64556; 74.05917
MethodsProtesting, rock throwing, arson, mobbing
Casualties
Death(s)2
Injuries35
Arrested300
2018 Bhima Koregaon violence is located in Maharashtra
2018 Bhima Koregaon violence

Historical backgroundEdit

Battle of Bhima KoregaonEdit

The 1818 Battle of Koregaon is of importance for Dalits. On 1 January 1818, 800 troops of the East India Company's Bombay Presidency Army, with a large number of Mahars predominant among them, defeated a numerically superior force of the Peshwa Baji Rao II. A victory pillar (Vijay Sthamb) was erected in Koregaon by the British, commemorating the dead soldiers. In 1928, B. R. Ambedkar led the first commemoration ceremony here. Since then, on 1 January every year, Ambedkarites gather at Bhima Koregaon to celebrate their victory against the upper caste Peshwa regime of the Maratha Empire, whom they see as their oppressors.[6][7][8][9][10][5]


Vadhu Budruk triggerEdit

According to legend, Aurangzeb killed and mutilated Sambhaji Maharaj in 1689. Govind Mahar, from Vadhu Budruk (a village near Bhima Koregaon) collected the body parts and organised the last rites. The memorial for Sambhaji Maharaj is said to have been constructed by the Dalit Mahars of that village. Soon after, Govind Mahar’s tomb was constructed in the village after his death. But Marathas refused to accept the role played by Govind Gaikwad and other Mahars in the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj as Marathas of that village do have surname as Shivle (means Stitched), and were increasingly vocal about in the days prior to the January violence at Bhima Koregaon in 2018. They had specific objection to a sign at the site that acknowledged the contributions of the Mahars.[1][11]

January 2018 eventsEdit

Prior to the commemoration, about 250 Bahujan groups got together under the banner of "Elgar Parishad and organised a conference at Shaniwar Wada in Pune, the erstwhile seat of the Peshwas. The speakers included two retired judges, B.G Kolte-Patil and P. B. Sawant,[4] and Jignesh Mevani, a newly elected member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly.

The equating of Hindutva with the Peshwas is said to have irked the Hindu groups.[6]

On January 1, like every year, lakhs of Dalits poured into Bhima Koregaon. The commemoration has a record of being conducted peacefully and the village’s residents have a history of social harmony. But this year, tensions had begun to build in a neighbouring village over the question of which community had conducted the last rites of Maratha ruler Sambhaji – the Mahar or the Maratha. The panchayat of Bhima Koregaon issued a notice asking residents to boycott the event by calling for all shops to remain shut that day.[12]

To protest the violence, Dalit rights groups staged road blocks and demonstrations across Maharashtra.[13] Violence was reported across Pune. A 16-year-old boy was killed during the protest, with the family alleging injuries sustained by police caning.[14] A Maharashtra bandh was called by Prakash Ambedkar on 3 January 2018. The aftermath consisted of various protests across Maharashtra resulting in 30 policemen being injured and over 300 people being detained.[15] Protests were staged all over Maharashtra. In Mumbai, suburban trains were affected due to which Dabbawalas had to suspend their services.[16]

AftermathEdit

  • On 2 January 2018, an FIR was filed against Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote for instigating violence on Dalits.[17]
  • In February 2018, the Supreme Court criticised the State government and probe agencies for the slow progress in their probe against Milind Ekbote, questioning the agencies’ claims that he was allegedly ‘untraceable’. Chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis said in the state assembly that the police had raided all hotels and lodges in Pune and Kolhapur in search of Ekbote, conducted combing operations, detained his followers and examined more than 100 call records but failed to locate him.[18]
  • On 14 March 2018, the district rural police of Pune arrested Milind Ekbote. The Supreme Court cancelled his interim bail plea after he did not cooperate with the probe agencies despite five summons for interrogation and refused to hand over his mobile phone.[19][20]
  • On 22 April 2018, a nineteen-year-old dalit witness, whose house was burnt in the violence, was found dead in a well. Her family alleged that she was under intense pressure to withdraw her statement.[21] Her brother, Jaideep, also a witness, had been arrested by Pune Rural Police on charges of attempt to murder.[22]
  • Investigation by the police in the following months resulted in various arrests, such as that of Rona Wilson in June 2018 under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.[23]
  • In August 2018 five activists, including Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj and Gautam Navlakha, were picked up in simultaneous raids across the country, the police alleged that the activists had ties to Maoists, apart from links to the Bhima Koregaon incident.[24]
  • On January 22, 2020, the newly elected Maharashtra government ordered a probe into the matter, further considering constituting a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the investigation.[25]
  • On January 25, 2020, the NIA, a central agency governed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, took over the case from the Maharashtra government. Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, accused the Union Government of not taking the State's consent before taking over the case.[26]
  • In October 2020, the National Investigation Agency released a 10,000 page chargesheet regarding the incident with fresh names, including Fr Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest,[27] who the NIA accused of conspiring to bring together Dalit and Muslim forces to take on what he referred to as the “fascist government” at the Centre. The NIA also accused him of being connected to the banned left-wing terrorist organisation, CPI (Maoist).[28]
  • A report by Arsenal Consulting, a digital forensics firm based out of Massachusetts, said the incriminating evidence against Rona Wilson was placed on his laptop by a yet-to-be-identified attacker using a malware while his laptop was compromised for over 22 months.[29][30]

Fact finding commissionEdit

In February 2018, The Maharashtra Home Department set up a fact finding Commission. This Commission became operational in September 2018 and consisted of former Calcutta High Court chief justice JN Patel and state Chief Information Commissioner Sumit Mullick.[31] The tenure of the Commission expired on 8 April 2020 and they had requested for a six month extension.

ArrestsEdit

  • 8 June 2018: Pune Police arrested Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut with alleged Maoist links for inciting riots.[32][33]
  • 28 August 2018: the Pune police carried out searches of nine rights activists, and arrested five of them. Those arrested include activists Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, and activists Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Vernon Gonsalves.[34] The Supreme Court ordered them to be place under "house arrest".[35]
  • 12 September 2018: The Supreme Court extends the "house arrest" until 17 September 2018.[35]
  • 28 September 2018: The Supreme Court extends the house arrest by another four weeks, but declined the appointment of a special investigation team.[36][37]
  • 26 October 2018: The police had arrested accused Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves. Another accused Sudha Bharadwaj was taken into custody the next day.
  • On the night of 17 November 2018: The Pune police arrested activist Varvara Rao.
  • According to police, all the arrested activists had links with the Maoists, who backed Elgar Parishad event held in Pune on 31 December 2017. Police claimed that Elgar Parishad led to the violence at Koregaon Bhima war memorial on 1 January 2018 when thousands of people gathered here to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
  • The police also filed a chargesheet against 10 people including five rights activists just around a week ago from Rao's arrest. it claimed that the December 31 event was organised as per a plan by the banned CPI(Maoist), to mobilise Dalit groups and other organisations against the ruling establishment. It said that inciting speeches at the event provoked the masses and aggravated violence in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. According to the police document, activists and others are active members of CPI (Maoist). Also, there was also a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it claimed.[38]
  • On 14 April 2020, the 129th birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, his grandson-in-law, Anand Teltumbde was arrested by the NIA in connection with the case. A week before his arrest on April 8, The Supreme Court of India denied him anticipatory bail.[39] It was later revealed by the NIA that Anand Teltumbde along with his associates, were in contact with RDF (banned terrorist organisation in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) and CPI(Maoist), and organised weapons and explosive training for the militants in Korchi forest area of Maharashtra.[40][41]
  • On 9 October 2020, the NIA arrested 83-year-old Father Stan Swamy in connection with the case. The NIA alleged that the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee (PPSC) co-convened by Swamy and Sudha Bharadwaj was a front for Maoists.[42][43]

Independent reportsEdit

An RSS-backed think tank called Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS), mainly consisting of retired army officers, released a report on the Bhima Koregaon riots. The report absolved the Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide from direct involvement. Instead, it blamed Maoists (ultra left-wing organisations) for instigating the Dalit activists. It also blamed the Maharashtra Police for "apathy" and overlooking evidence.[44][45][46][47] Analysis shows that the Pune police made claims in Court which resemble the FINS report.[48] In contrast, the report by the multi-member "fact finding committee" led by deputy mayor Siddharth Dhende submitted that right-wing activists Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote had pre-planned the entire violence.[49] The report by the Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD) questioned how the right wing activists who were initially named in the FIR were still able to give interviews while a divisive environment was being created. The RSD also called for a judicial enquiry to hold the administration accountable for any lapses.[50]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Pol, Prabodhan (2018-01-04). "Understanding Bhima Koregaon". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  2. ^ "Dalits protest death of 28-year-old in Bhima Koregaon clashes". Hindustantimes. 2018-01-02. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  3. ^ Staff, The Wire. "'Pune ATS Spreading Panic in My Neighbourhood': Justice (Retd) B. G. Kolse Patil". The Wire. The Wire. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  4. ^ a b Katakam, Anupama. "Elgar Parishad case: Victims of vendetta". Frontline. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  5. ^ a b Aarefa Johari, Abishek Dey, Mridula Chari & Shone Satheesh, From Pune to Paris: How a police investigation turned a Dalit meeting into a Maoist plot, Scroll.in, 1 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b Bhima Koregaon: How and Why the January Violence Snowballed Into Arrest of Rights Activists, News18, 29 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Caste violence erupts in India over 200-year-old faultline". CNN. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Monument at Koregaon". The Indian Express. 2018-01-02. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  9. ^ Banerjee, Shoumojit (2 January 2018). "How a British war memorial became a symbol of Dalit pride". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  10. ^ Let’s Rewind 200 Years to Understand Bhima Kore Violence, The Quint, 4 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Removal of Mahar samadhi board near Pune sparked clashes". The Indian Express. 2018-01-04. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  12. ^ Aarefa Johari, Abhishek Dey. "From Pune to Paris: How a police investigation turned a Dalit meeting into a Maoist plot". Scroll.in. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  13. ^ Banerjee, Shoumojit (2018-01-02). "Protests spread in Maharashtra post clashes during bicentenary celebrations of Bhima-Koregaon battle". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  14. ^ "Maharashtra bandh: Minor boy killed as shutdown called by Dalit parties paralyses state". Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  15. ^ PTI (2018-01-04). "Maharashtra protests: Over 30 cops injured, 300 persons detained". livemint.com/. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  16. ^ Srinivasan, Madhuvanti (2018-01-04). "Trains hit, dabbawalas suspend services". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  17. ^ "Bhima Koregaon Violence: Petition Before Bombay HC Seeking Arrest Of Sambhaji Bhide". Live Law. 2018-08-31. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  18. ^ "Bhima Koregaon Violence: Maharashtra to Withdraw All Cases Barring Major Ones". The Wire. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  19. ^ Banerjee, Shoumojit (2018-03-14). "Bhima-Koregaon violence: prime accused Milind Ekbote arrested". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  20. ^ "Right-Wing Leader Milind Ekbote Arrested After SC Rejects His Anticipatory Bail Plea". The Wire. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  21. ^ "Dalit Girl, Witness To Bhima Koregaon Violence, Found Dead In Well Near Pune". NDTV.com. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  22. ^ "Bhima Koregaon shadow over death of Dalit witness". The Indian Express. 2018-04-25. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  23. ^ "Bhima Koregaon: How and Why the January Violence Snowballed Into Arrest of Rights Activists". News18. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  24. ^ "Bhima Koregaon violence probe: Police claim conclusive proof against activists, seize 'letters' planning 'big action' - Firstpost". firstpost.com. Retrieved 2018-09-01.
  25. ^ "Maharashtra Home Minister Seeks Probe Report On Bhima Koregaon Case". NDTV. NDTV. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  26. ^ "NIA takes over Koregaon-Bhima probe, Maharashtra minister Anil Deshmukh hits out at Centre". India Today. India Today. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  27. ^ Gupta, Saurabh (23 October 2020). "NIA Court Rejects Tribal Activist Stan Swamy's Bail Plea". NDTV. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  28. ^ Sandhu, Kamaljit Kaur (2020-10-13). "This is what NIA's Bhima Koregaon chargesheet says about Stan Swamy". India Today. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  29. ^ "They were accused of plotting to overthrow the Modi government. The evidence was planted, new report says". The Washington Post. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  30. ^ "Evidence planted in Bhima Koregaon accused Rona Wilson's computer: US firm". The Tribune. 11 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  31. ^ Ganapatye, Shruti (19 June 2020). "Bhima Koregaon commission to 'wind up'?". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  32. ^ "Bhima-Koregaon violence: Police arrest 5 with alleged Maoist links for inciting riots". hindustantimes.com/. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  33. ^ "Activists case: Pune police gets 90 more days for probe - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  34. ^ After Arrest Of Activists Over "Maoist Plot", A Midnight Drama: 10 Facts, NDTV News, 29 August 2018.
  35. ^ a b "Bhima Koregaon violence case: Five activists will remain under house arrest till September 17, says SC". The Indian Express. 2018-09-12. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  36. ^ Rautray, Samanwaya (2018-09-28). "Bhima-Koregaon case: Supreme Court refuses to interfere with arrests of five activists". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  37. ^ "Supreme Court Extends Activists' House Arrest By 4 Weeks: LIVE Updates". NDTV.com. Retrieved 2018-09-28.
  38. ^ "Bhima Koregaon case: Activist Varavara Rao arrested from Hyderabad". November 18, 2018.
  39. ^ MN, Parth. "India arrests activist Anand Teltumbde over 2018 caste violence". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2020-10-14.
  40. ^ "Bhima Koregaon: Milind Teltumbde organised weapons training in forests, says NIA". mid-day. 2020-10-14. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  41. ^ "Bhima Koregaon: Teltumbde organised weapons training in forests". Sify. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  42. ^ "In 10,000-page chargsheet, NIA names 8 accused in Elgar Parishad case". Hindustan Times. 2020-10-09. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  43. ^ "NIA arrests activist Stan Swamy in Bhima-Koregaon violence case". Hindustan Times. 2020-10-09. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  44. ^ Vivek Bhavsar, Bhima-Koregaon violence: RSS-linked committee blames police apathy, The Free Press Journal, 3 March 2018.
  45. ^ Mridula Chari, Bhima Koregaon case: A curiously prescient report puts focus on a Mumbai security think tank, Scroll.in, 31 August 2018.
  46. ^ ‘Maoists call urban mass organisations weapons … battle is for control of civil society through subversion’ (Interview of Smita Gaikwad), The Times of India, The Interviews Blog, 2 May 2018.
  47. ^ Kiran Tare, Gunning for Maoists, India Today, 10 May 2018.
  48. ^ Chari, Mridula. "Bhima Koregaon case: A curiously prescient report puts focus on a Mumbai security think tank". Scroll. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  49. ^ "Bhima-Koregaon Violence Was "Pre-Planned", Says Pune Committee". PTI. 11 September 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  50. ^ "Fact finding report of Bhima Koregaon Violence by Rashtra Seva Dal". Kractivist. Retrieved 1 November 2020.