Bhima Koregaon violence: Dalit intellectuals dismiss Maharashtra Police’s claims of instigation by radical Left

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On 30 August, the Maharashtra Police released letters which allegedly established links between activists who’ve been arrested in June and Maoists. As only a trial will be able to establish the veracity of these letters and the alleged guilt, it is pointless to delve into their contents. But the base of all the press statements made by the Maharashtra Police is that these ‘Maoists and Maoist-sympathisers’ instigated Dalits to riot at Bhima Koregaon through their anti-State songs at Elgar Parishad, a programme organised by individuals and organisations in Pune on 31 December, 2017, a day before commemoration of Shourya Divas at Bhima Koregaon.
Activists of Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan’ during a protest against the arrests of activists and alleged state repression, in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI
Activists of Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan’ during a protest against the arrests of activists and alleged state repression, in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI
The allegation of instigation was initially made by right-wing organisations and reports in the media. For example, a report in The Times of India stated how “urban Naxal cadre may be behind the Dalit agitation that led to Maharashtra bandh.” On the one hand, the report stated that an officer anonymously informed the newspaper that the police accessed reports which establish that “the entire Bhima Koregaon episode was planned, executed and fanned across the state by leaders of Naxal front organisations”, while on the other the officers the newspaper spoke with dismissed such claims.
Tushar Damgude, a right-wing activist based in Pune, filed an FIR on 8 January alleging that the Bhima Koregaon attacks were instigating by anti-State songs sung by Kabir Kala Manch activists such as Sagar Gorkhe, Harshali Potdar, Sudhir Dhawale and others at the Elgar Parishad.
Damgude alleged that “the banned Maoist organisation (CPI) have strong organisational role to boost and implicate strong Maoist thoughts in depressed classes, and misdirect and misguide them towards unconstitutional violence activities”. Following this, members of Kabir Kala Manch were questioned but no arrests were made.
Dalit writer Urmila Pawar laughed off the police’s claim that the community is being instigated by Maoists. “While individuals are free to believe in any political thought process, this state is where our leader Dr BR Ambedkar was born. No doubt that he is a national leader, but the majority of his following is from the Dalit community in Maharashtra. We call ourselves Buddhist Ambedkarite because we believe in constitutional and democratic methods. We are an ideologically-inclined, educated community and this is not recent, this has been the case for decades.” She said she finds the notion of ‘instigating Dalits to attack’ hard to believe. “Even if you approach working class Dalits, a majority of them will speak about constitutional values. In the field of education, the Dalit community has progressed more than others in the state.”