Dr. B Karthik Navayan
The recent developments in Pune linked to Bhima Koregaon violence on Ambedkarites: 1) the arrests of five human rights activists 2) unearthing of so-called Maoist letter (fake and absolutely undercooked): these illustrate the structural opposition to Ambedkarite assertion at this point of time in BJP ruled Maharashtra and in the centre. Anybody can say and do anything when it comes to Ambedkarites’ issues. The recent developments show how growing Ambedkarite assertion challenges the ego of Brahmanical caste Hindu society and leads to utterly ridiculous and funny things like the above.
Bhima Koregaon picture credit: Nilesh Kumar
The entire episode of arrests and so-called unearthing of a sensational letter of the Maoists that mentions a Rajiv Gandhi type assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a Hindutva Brahmanical conspiracy aimed at a number of birds with one stone. It may be unplanned, but it is natural and aimed to 1) delegitimize Ambedkarite assertion and brand it as Maoist instigated, 2) protecting the Brahmin Sambhaji Bhide, the prime accused who instigated violence on Ambedkarites in Bhima Koregaon, 3) shut the democratic voices of activists by threatening them with arrests, detention under draconian laws, 4) upholding Modi’s losing wave by creating sympathy for him 5) targeting Congress party by creating links to Maoist party.
As everyone knows, the anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon is observed by Ambedkarites, and around ten lakhs people from across the globe reach the place on 31 Dec of every year and celebrate the victory of Mahar Soldiers on Peshwas rule on 1st January. Maoists or their sympathizers are no way related to this event. It is completely an Ambedkarite community initiative. Many parties and organisations participate in the Bhima Koregaon celebrations and express solidarity with the Ambedkarites’ struggle. Like any other organisation or party, Elgar Parishad, the so-called Maoist party sympathizers have participated and conducted an event in Pune at Shaniwarwada. Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid etc., spoke in that event on the growing threat of Hindutva to society, especially to the Bahujan and minorities.
Let us, first delink this mythical link that police are trying to create between the so-called Maoist sympathizers and the Bhima Koregaon issue and event. To make it clear, Maoist party, or their so-called sympathizers and their so-called frontal organisation Elgar Parishad, do not really believe in the Bhima Koregaon battle and the victory of Mahar soldiers. They are like any other political organisation that wants to show up when there is an Ambedkarite community mobilization and stand in solidarity, which is absolutely fine. To say further, Dr Anand Teltumbde, who was portrayed as a Maoist sympathizer by the police and whose name is mentioned in the so-called Maoist letter, wrote an article that the Victory of Mahars soldiers in Bhima Koregaon war against Peshwas is a myth.
Bhima Koregaon celebrations are Ambedkarite community initiated, led and celebrated in line with Ambedkar, Buddha and Phule ideology and philosophy. Maoist party, Congress party, BJP and communist parties are part of the audience in this celebration and maybe supporters. No political party or ideology has any role in the entire history of Bhima Koregaon celebrations. If this is not understood clearly by police and authorities, they will certainly be making a mistake in assuming that Ambedkarite assertion is sponsored by some external political force. That is absolute nonsense and an insult to Ambedkar and his legacy. So police must stop this dastardly plot against Ambedkarites.
The five activists arrested. Clockwise, from top left: Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut. Pic courtesy: the internet
What happened on 1st January 2018 in the bicentenary celebrations in Bhima Koregaon, according to Somnath, an eyewitness: there was pre-planned violence that involved killing of an Ambedkarite youth, injuring of hundreds and damaging property, among other things. Ambedkarites have accused Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote — the right-wing Hindu activists of being behind this violence. A case was registered against both of them for inciting violence that led to the killing of Rahul Phatangade, a youngster. What should happen after registering an FIR against anyone–they should be arrested and investigated, right? But that has not happened. Prakash Ambedkar, the leader of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, has organised a protest demanding the arrest of Shambaji Bhide, but still no arrest. Why?
What happened here? Police administration is expressing admiration for the alleged criminal Sambhaji Bhide. Why, because he is a Brahmin? There was news that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Fadnavis admire and pay visits to this Hindu Brahmin alleged criminal as they share the same Hindu Brahmin anti Ambedkarite political ideologies. Then who will arrest this alleged Brahmin criminal? They will only attempt to sideline him from the focus of the issue and concoct more sensational stories? The entire story of the Maoist letter and the plot to kill the prime minister can be assumed to have been cooked up for that purpose mainly, apart from other political purposes as mentioned above.
It does not require much thought to understand that the arrest of five human rights activists is unlawful and atrocious. There may not be any dispute that those arrested share the political ideology of the Maoist party. That doesn’t amount to a crime and this is a precedent upheld by the Supreme Court of India and other high courts.
Further, some people’s organisations which believe in Moist ideology may not subscribe to the violence of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) party. That I have seen in Telangana, some of the peoples’ organisations which share Maoist ideology opposed the Maoist party’s violence a few times. This shows a democratic spirit and has to be upheld by the authorities. They should differentiate between the Maoist party’s actions and the people who believe in Maoism as a political ideology. Intelligence police are really intelligent and they understand this better, but sometimes they do this nasty thing of arresting human rights activists–to satisfy political bosses, maybe?
These kind of arrests are a threat to whatever meagre democracy remains in our society. Mainstream media discourse seems to subscribe to the mythical construction of the theory that being Maoist is a crime and is anti-national. Being Maoist is not a crime, not anti-national, let this be clear in our minds first. And being sympathetic towards Maoist politics is absolutely not a crime. Those arrests are against the spirit of the constitution and are a violation of the right to free speech.
Let’s look at the letters: three letters have appeared as of now and one letter mentions the plot of assassination. Other letters talk about the supply of weapons, links to Congress, links to Vara Vara Rao, Dr Anand Teltumbde, Jignesh Mevani etc. The minimum sensible thing for anyone to understand is that a secret party never ever does such kind of blunders, mentioning the real names of people, if at all they are in anyway linked with them. It is suicidal for them, why would they do that?
Those letters raise many doubts, the main letter which mentions the plot to assassinate the PM was found a year ago. There were mistakes in maintaining the accuracy of dates. They’re not well-written letters. Pune police seem to be doing this for the first time, and that’s why they seem undercooked. Telangana police are experts in this art.
Anyone who has a basic understanding about military operations, Maoist party politics and practices can easily understand that those letters are fake. And the earlier statement of the home minister that Maoist party is in its last battle and weakened indicates that they are not in a position to execute any such assassination. This is also echoed by an expert journalist, Suvojit Bagchi, who studied the Maoist movement in Chhattisgarh.
Another small mistake that the Pune police made was, on one of the letters, they mentioned that Bijay Da’s death is a loss to the party. The name Bijay Da is from Bengal, but sources say, that the police actually meant Vijay Da, whose real name is Sridhar, a Telugu man. Both of them died in the Maoist movement. So police should understand the difference between Bijay and Vijay before writing such letters. Maoist party uses letters to circulate their policy decisions to their structures while issuing political statements. Not their military operations. Not even in their internal communications, of which they will not even keep a record.
And those letters, so serious in nature, directly go to Republic TV studio instead of the court and then the forensic lab. Wah! Also, Maoist party is not a fools’ party to put their conspiracies in writing, they have not done such things earlier. Pune police maybe thinking that they can fool people, but they are fooling themselves. Through these letters, the Maoist party has nothing to lose or gain, but it will badlt affect democratic rights activists and the Ambedkarite movement.
After the mainstream media kept running episodes on this assassination story for days, to curry favour with Narendra Modi, thankfully, some of the regional newspapers pointed out the lacunae in those fake letters. Indian Savarna Brahmanical media survives on fake news and sensations.
To sum up, as I mentioned in the beginning, this letter is aimed at ensuring certain political gains to benefit the ruling party, BJP, in Maharashtra and in the centre. BJP has understood that the Modi magic not going to work in 2019. Maharashtra and central governments do not have the guts to arrest the alleged criminal Sambhaji Bhide as they are his Bhakts. Ambedkarites and other marginalized communities are up against governments. All democratic forces are coming together against Hindutva Brahmanical fascism of BJP rule. By-poll results in different states have been bad for BJP. This is the situation that resulted in a police plot creating an assassination plot. It is a threat, a conspiracy and a cunning game against growing Ambedkarite assertion.
The growing Ambedkarite assertion in all spheres is a challenge to the Brahmanical Hindu social order. While one type of Brahmanical forces attempt to appropriate it, other types of Brahmanical forces dismiss, condemn and criminalize it with different methods. That is what happening is now. Let Ambedkarites be aware of those appropriating and accusing Brahmanical forces and rededicate themselves to the legacy of Babasaheb who told us, ‘Battle for us is a matter of Joy!’
Views expressed here are my own and do not represent any organisation I am associated with.
Dr. B Karthik Navayan is a human rights activist, based in Bangalore.