It is a known practice in India to foment riots for liquidation of the enemy. But the new agenda of sabotage through probes into riots as a means of eliminating adversaries and dissenting voices on a long-term basis, is the latest kind that has started happening in Hindutva-ruled India. Most recently, after the racial riots in Delhi, not only has there been no attempt to offer justice or compensation to the victims of Muslim community, the BJP government at the centre which controls Delhi police has even made the riot a handy tool to hunt down protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The modus operandi is to let off those who ignited the riots scot-free and to clamp down on the front-line leaders of the anti-CAA stir, which had given the government a hard time.
This is a replica of an experiment made in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon, Maharashtra over the last two years. The picture of Bhima-Koregaon case is one in which those who set aflame the riot escape and a legal noose is put around the figures already targeted to be strangled. The latest in the series is the arrest of Hany Babu, Associate Professor in Delhi University, who hails from Kerala. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) explains the arrest for his role in the conspiracy in collusion with the academicians , lawyers and activists, previously arrested in connection with the case and for advocating Naxalite activities and Maoist ideas. Hany Babu has been handed over to NIA custody until 4 August. Pune police had on 10 September last year, raided his residence in Noida, Delhi and seized his laptop and books.
The arrests of those including Hany Baby were in the name of organising the rally held by Elgar Parishad, commemorating the bicentennial of the Bhima-Koregaon war which happened in Shanivar Garhwa, Pune in Maharashtra on 31 December 2017. Baji Rao II, the last of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire was defeated by the British East India Company on 1 January 1818. In the battle against the upper caste Peshwas, the Dalit soldiers belonging to the Mahar community participated and 22 of them became martyrs. The 200th anniversary of the incident took place under the joint auspices of about 250 left-Ambedkarist voluntary organisations. The event, punctuated by slogans and declarations against the caste and communalist forces and the 'neo-Peshwa' government was also marked for its Dalit and backward patronage and empowerment, and discomfited the sangh parivar camp under Maratha influence.
Hindutva outfits came out against it. In the violence of 1 January 2018 one man was killed and several injured. In protest against this, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi led by Prakash Ambedkar declared a Maharashtra bandh on 3 January and confrontations happened in several areas of Maharashtra. Following this, Pune rural police filed cases against Hindutva organisation leaders Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote for anti-Dalit attacks. Although Ekbote was arrested on 14 March 2018, he secured bail in April. And there was no attempt to arrest Sambhaji. Pune police also filed cases against Elgar Parishad for provocative speeches and Maoist links. That got extended to raids and arrest against activists. On 6 June 2018, five prominent lawyers and activists were arrested, after police 'discovered' that they had planned to destabilise the country and to assassinate Narendra Modi, the same way Rajiv Gandhi was killed. With the change in Maharashtra government following assembly election, the ruling alliance leader Sharad Pawar wrote to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray asking him to revisit the case.
What Pune police did the very next day was to refer the investigation to the NIA. On 23 July, Hany was summoned to the NIA office in Mumbai and after interrogation he was arrested. This Elgar Parishad model turns out to be a novel police recipe to silence voices that oppose the anti-democratic approaches of the Hindutva government and its official machinery. The regime is targeting exponents of constitutional rights. It first rounds up a few and then casts the net wider for those in their network, in the process spinning stories tailored for that. What the investigation agency has done is to bracket together all protests that took place in Maharashtra following the Elgar Parishad as Bhima-Koregaon attacks; and most of such conflicts were attacks instigated by Hindutva workers following the Bhima-Koregaon commemoration.
Those who sowed the seeds of conflicts get out of the picture and the ones who organised the Koregaon event are in the dock. What we see in the cases of Delhi communal riots is a repetition of this process. Hany Babu becomes one more scapegoat of the NIA investigative acrobatics that upends truth in the garb of probe.