From Bhima Koregaon violence to activists' arrest: Things to know
The arrests of five activists in different cities on Tuesday on allegations of being associated with Maoists has sparked an uproar. After historian Romila Thapar and others moved Supreme Court, it ordered all arrested activists will be kept under house-arrest till September 6. On social media, lines are distinctively drawn, with both sides claiming to be right. But the arrests are only the tip. Here's everything that happened before.
At Bhima Koregaon, Dalits gathered to celebrate victory
Every year on January 1, Dalits who follow BR Ambedkar, celebrate the win of their ancestors on upper caste Marathas. Notably, in 1818, Mahar soldiers led by East India Company defeated a large army of Maratha soldiers. So, while the world revels in the new year, Dalits gather at Bhima Koregaon's Vijay Sthamb to celebrate this victory. This year marked the war's 200th anniversary.
Celebrations turned violent after clashes between Dalits and upper-caste Marathas
Since this year was the 200th anniversary, the celebrations were bigger. A conference was organized at Elgar Parishad with leaders like Jignesh Mevani and Prakash Ambedkar being invited for the same. But during the celebrations, Maratha groups and Dalits clashed with each other leading to violence, that killed one and injured several others. Tuesday raids were part of the investigation behind this violent episode.
Followers of Hindutva leaders planned attack: Committee
A report of Coordination Committee, formed to assist the police, concluded the attacks were planned. Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote allegedly fanned religious tensions through his speeches in Sambhaji's tomb at Vadhu-Budruk village. A committee member said 1,500-2,000 people came near Bhima Koregaon with the purpose of hindering the occasion. They were followers of Sambhaji Bhide 'Guruji' and Ekbote, it has been reported.
Ekbote was arrested, released later
Subsequently, Bhide was named in an FIR but he wasn't arrested. In a statement to the magistrate, CM Devendra Fadnavis said the witness hadn't seen Bhide and filed a complaint on the basis of what others said. In March, Ekbote was arrested but later released on bail. About defending the accused, Fadnavis claimed people from his own house won't be spared if found guilty.
On Tuesday, near simultaneous raids led to arrests
For their roles in the violence, activists namely Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navalakha, Vernon Gonzalves were arrested and trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj was kept under house arrest. They were charged under IPC Section 153(A) which relates to promoting enmity between groups. In FIR, the complainant alleged objectionable material was distributed in the Elgaar Parishad programme which led to January 1 violence.
The arrests were condemned by many
The arrests led to the nationwide uproar with several equating it to 1975 Emergency. Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik, Satish Deshpande, Maya Darnall and others demanded a stay on the arrests. They approached the SC and sought independent probe in the matter. Rahul Gandhi said India has a place for only one NGO: the RSS. "Jail all activists and shoot those that complain," he tweeted.