Bhima Koregaon riots: Four Dalit activists, Nagpur University professor arrested
Police in Maharashtra have arrested four prominent Dalit activists along with a Nagpur University teacher with "Maoist links" for their role in the Bhima Koregaon riots of January. "We are investigating possible Maoist connection with the riots," said Pune JCP Ravindra Kadam. Police have also arrested a right-wing leader, but cleared another, Sambhaji Bhide, whom Dalits blame for triggering the violence.
In the first week of 2018, Maharashtra burned
On January 1, lakhs of Dalits had gathered to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, a British vs Maratha battle, where the former's forces mostly comprised Dalits. But clashes broke out between Marathas and Dalits, killing one. After the clashes, violent protests erupted across the state, including in Pune, Nagpur, Baramati, Aurangabad and Thane. Dalits vandalized buses, forcibly downed shutters of shops and stopped trains.
The trigger of the clashes
The trigger of the violence, police said, was a week-old dispute between the communities in Vadhu Budruk over Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. After a quarrel, both sides filed cases against each-other, but later took them back. As lakhs of Dalits converged, clashes broke out.
Five people arrested for their alleged involvement
Police have now arrested Sudhir Dhawale, member of Republican Panther; Surendra Gadling, lawyer; Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut, activists; and Soma Sen, Nagpur University professor. Dhawale was an organizer of Elgar Parishad in Pune on December 31, 2017, when some people made provocative speeches that led to violence at Bhima Koregaon. Gadling, another organizer, was allegedly involved in promoting enmity at the Shaniwarwada event.
Activist alleges conspiracy against Dalit leaders
Apart from them, Gujarat-based Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani, JNU's Umar Khalid, Chhattisgarh activist Soni Sori and Bhim Army President Vinay Ratan Singh have been booked. Right-wing leader Milind Ekbote was arrested. Harshali Potdar, an Elgar Parishad organizer, alleged a conspiracy against Dalits. "On one hand, the police are giving a clean chit to people like Bhide, on the other they are arresting Dalit activists."