Bhima Koregaon violence refers to the riots that broke out during an annual gathering, at Bhima Koregaon, to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The incident has taken a different shape altogether in the last few months. Here is everything you need to know about Bhima Koregaon riots.
What exactly happened in Bhima Koregaon?
On January 1ST 2018, Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle that was fought on January 1st, 1818, in which a small force of the British East India Company, comprising majorly of Mahars, defeated the Peshwa’s army.
The crowd comprised largely of Dalits, a gathering much larger than usual, and the intrusion by upper caste Maratha groups who interrupted the commemoration at Bhima Koregaon by throwing rocks at the gathering as they disliked the fact that Hindutva was equated to the rule of Peshwas. This resulted in the escalation of an already edgy meeting into violence. And soon riots broke out between Dalit groups and supporters, and the right-wing Hindu organizations.
This led to various protests because of the death of one during the conflict, 30 policemen were injured as well as over 300 people being imprisoned. A Maharashtra bandh was called by Dalit groups on 3 January 2018 during which demonstrations were held all over Maharashtra.
Dalit rights groups staged roadblocks and protest demonstrations across Maharashtra. In several parts of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, and Ahmednagar, stone pelting was testified. Due to the violence, a Maratha youth, Rahul Phatangale, was killed. A 16-year-old boy, Yogesh Prahlad Jadhav, was also killed during the protest.
Why did Bhima Koregaon Riots Occur?
In the aftermath of the clashes, the police investigation found out about the role of two Hindutva activists who were alleged to have incited the violence by making inflammatory speeches. The police also found out that the clashes were the result of a series of provocative acts arranged by the radical Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote and the followers of Sambhaji Bhide.
However, in a shocking turn of events, Pune police arrested ten activists and lawyers who work with Dalits and Adivasis, for their alleged role in the violence. The police have accused the activists of using the Dalit tribute at Bhima Koregaon to build support for a Maoist conspiracy to undermine and overthrow the government. Later, the public prosecutor claimed in a Pune court that this conspiracy extends to an assassination plot targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Five of the ten activists were arrested across India on June 6th. The other five were arrested on August 28th. The police had also raided the homes of several people in April The raids were carried out as part of an investigation into an event called Elgar Parishad, or conclave, on December 31 last year, which had later triggered violence at Bhima-Koregaon village.
Recent Developments in Bhima Koregaon Riots:
The various arrests by the police include that of Rona Wilson in June 2018 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. In August 2018 five activists, that includes Telugu poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, activists Vernon Gonzalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, trade union activist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and civil liberties activist Gautam Navalakha in New Delhi, were picked up in simultaneous raids across the country.
The state police of Maharashtra stated that these activists were involved in arranging for violence and destruction of property resulting in chaos in society as per an agenda prepared by the CPI (Maoist), an organization banned since 2009. The state police further alleged that material found from computers, laptops, pen drives and memory cards of the accused persons clearly reflect them as active members of CPI (Maoist) and clearly showed a design to commit crimes to harm the country.
These arrests led to a nationwide outrage from the human rights defenders and have also received widespread disapproval across India.
It has been called an attack on intellectuals which is physically and mentally torturing them.
After the arrests were made, B.G. Kolse Patil, one of the organizers of the Elgar Parishad event strongly denied any Maoist involvement.
Why were the Bhima Koregaon riots linked to Maoists?
On August 29th, the Supreme Court stopped Pune police’s proposition for the activists’ immediate custody. The court ordered that the activists be kept under house arrest instead.
The Supreme Court, on the 6th of September, has now extended the house arrest of five activists held in Bhima Koregaon case till September 12th. It also adjourned the next hearing of a plea challenging the activists’ arrest to the same date.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra condemned the action of Pune police addressing the press with sensitive pieces of evidence, which cannot be shared with the public domain. Chief Justice Misra said “You must ask your police officials to be more responsible. The matter is before us and we don’t want to hear from police officials that the Supreme Court is wrong.”
To look after the well being of the country is the duty of all the security forces in our country. But the recent press conference by the Maharashtra police has been confusing to many. As they tried to provide “clear evidence” about the alleged links of the activists to Maoists groups, the evidence in the form of emails did not seem as a solid proof to anyone’s involvement as it hasn’t been examined by experts yet. To detain activists under the draconian Preventive Act is a severe punishment unnecessarily implemented without any solid pieces of evidence. It is a blow to an individual’s dignity. The nation can only wait for the Supreme Court to look into the matter with unbiased sentiments and rule accordingly.