The Pune Police today arrested five people allegedly having close Maoist links, including prominent Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale, from Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence on January 1.
According to sources in the Pune Police, Dhawale was arrested from his house in Mumbai, lawyer Surendra Gadling, activist Mahesh Raut and Shoma Sen were picked up from Nagpur and Rona Wilson was arrested from his flat in Munirka in Delhi in simultaneous raids this morning.
Dhawale was one of the organisers of Elgar Parishad, organised to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle on December 31 at Shaniwarwada.
There Kabir Kala Manch activists had allegedly made provocative speeches leading to violence at Koregaon Bhima in the district, according to an FIR registered at Vishrambaug police station after the event.
Sudhir Dhawale is a Dalit activist and editor of Marathi magazine Vidrohi while Surendra Gadling, a Nagpur based lawyer, also known as a Dalit and tribal activist, provides legal aids to those who arrested for Maoist links, police said.
Shoma Sen is a professor at Nagpur University and her husband Tushar Kranti Bhattacharya was arrested from Nagpur station for his alleged Naxal links in 2010.
Mahesh Raut is a former Prime Minister Rural Development fellow and said to have close Maoist links. Rona Wilson, 47, a native of Kerala, is currently based in Delhi and associated with for Committee for Release of Political Prisoners.
“We have arrested five people in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence. All five have close Maoist links and prima facie, their involvement is being seen in the matter. It is to be investigated whether they instigated the violence,” Joint Commissioner of Police, Pune Police, Ravindra Kadam, said.
He said there were possibilities of additional arrests in the case. “We are also evoking relevant sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” he said.
He said the latest developments took place after the detailed investigation of the case registered at Vishrambaug police station.
The event (Elgar Parishad) was attended by Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, JNU student leader Umar Khalid, Rohit Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula, and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar.
Shaniwarwada, a historical fortification in the city, had remained the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire until 1818.
The complaint against the KKM members was lodged by one Tushar Damgude.
The FIR was registered against Sudhir Dhawale, Sagar Gorkhe, Harshali Potdar, Ramesh Gaychor, Deepak Dengle and Jyoti Jagtap, a police official said.
The complainant had alleged that the “provocative” speeches and presentations made during the entire programme “promoted” enmity between two groups.
The complaint also had stated that the “inciting speeches and presentations” led to the violence. One person was killed in the caste violence between two groups near Sanaswadi, adjacent to Koregaon Bhima. The violence led to the statewide Dalit agitation.
The mobs had damaged and torched several vehicles and shops on New Year’s day and the houses of local residents were also ransacked.
The Pune Police had registered a case against Hindutwa leader Milind Ekbote and another right-wing leader Sambhaji Bhide. Ekbote had already been arrested in the case. Bhide and Ekbote are accused of orchestrating the violence.
A case against the members of the Kabir Kala Manch was registered under sections 153(a), 505(1)(b) and 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.