When efforts are on for resurgence of people marginalized for various reasons, are our governments in a bid to nip in the bud even the weakest of such attempts?
We are constrained to note that the approach of police in Maharashtra, which is enquiring into the 'clashes' in Bhima-Koregaon, is telling us exactly that. The Bhima-Koregaon incident was a commemoration of the Dalit community's brave victory against the upper caste supremacy of Maratha government 500 years ago. The anniversary of this Dalit freedom declaration - which is never recorded as part of mainstream history - is celebrated on the 1st of January every year under the auspices of Dalit organizations. This year, about a million people marched towards the monument. But the Hindutva outfits tried to disrupt the event right from the beginning by observing a bandh there and by threatening the local population. The Dalits who overcame the threats and blockades, were subjected to unilateral violence unleashed by savarna Fascist bodies like 'Hindu Ekta Aghadi'.
From the very outset of the probe about the incident, which culminated in the deaths of seven people, the enquiry commission was in an attempt to spread a different narrative of the violence and thereby criminalize the victims and those who raised their voice for them. This has been made plain by the arrests and raids over the last eight months. At one point, even the Supreme Court had to intervene in the slow pace of the enquiry. And now through various reports, it has become clear why the enquiry was getting dragged and who all the team was trying to protect. The findings of the fact-finding mission led by Retired Justice of Hyderabad High Court B Chandrakumar, go along these lines. In their report prepared after a visit to Bhima-Koregaon and surrounding areas, the party emerging as the first accused is the police itself. The report makes it unequivocally clear that it was solely the inefficiency of the police that got matters this bad: an observation made right at that time by many who had come for the Bhima-Koregaon rally. For, the organization had officially requested the district administration to arrange essential medical aid for the programme in which lakhs of people would participate, transport arrangements, and to provide sufficient security to people arriving for the event, in view of the threats raised by Marathas. Not only was this request ignored, police even stood there as mere spectators when the Dalits were attacked en masse, as made clear by many witness accounts.
This remaining the fact, the government and the enquiry team, put the whole event upside down. That is how the activists and academicians who argued for the victims of violence were put behind bars. The ten persons arrested on different dates were those who had raised questions against the positions of the government and the police. Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Rawat and Shoma Sen, who were arrested on June 6th are still behind bars without getting bail. When during last week, another five were arrested including Varavara Rao after similar raids, our judiciary had to intervene. As a result, those arrested are temporarily put under house arrest. They have been charged with strange offences. The police team's version, as told to media men, is that these five, by now dubbed 'urban Maoists', were trying to create anarchy under cover of Dalit activism, and through that were planning to assassinate the prime minister himself. And they argue that they got evidence to ratify what they alleged, but did not try to place any evidence of this before the court, but instead were raising this claim before the media. The motive is clear: the police was trying with forged evidence, to silence a group who were raising their voice consistently against the actions of government. Without getting into the crux of the incidents even by error, how cleverly did they suppress opposing voices in line with a pre-set script! What is notable is that it is when the Hindutva organization's leader Milind Ekbote, and Sambhaji Bhide are strutting about scot-free that this governmental intervention has happened.
The way Bhima-Koregaon and related incidents have been happening is a pointer to how a 'deep state' functions. Watched closely, different parts of the country do pose several examples of this kind. It is not limited to police action. Even in apparently innocent and harmless statements lie dangers that destroy the unity and integrity of the country. The order of Modi government sent to central and state government departments, forbidding the use of the term 'Dalit', can be seen only as a part of such moves. If the very word 'Dalit' can cause such unease in the government, it is an easy guess as to what the government's approach would be towards the voice and struggle for rights by those repressed sections. A government that bears intolerance towards even the mild winds of criticisms and voices of dissent, has nothing to give other than lasting emergency.