The nationwide raids by the Pune police which led to arrests of five activists were the result of an FIR filed by a Pune-based small-time businessman Tushar Damgude on January 8 following the Bhima Koregaon riots. Damgude who suddenly finds himself in the eye of the storm, said, “(I) did not realise things would go this far when I filed my complaint,” as reported by Scroll.
In his complaint, Damgude alleged that the violence that ensued at the Dalit commemoration at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 was in fact due to instigation from the leftist activists who had, the previous day, given speeches at the Elgar Parishad. In an interview with India Today, he said that he found the speeches, pamphlets and literature “highly objectionable”. He also added that the in the past, the Dalit commemoration had never seen violence of any sort.
As per the FIR filed by Damgude, at the meeting of the “Elgar Parishad” which took place a day before the Bhima Koregaon incident, members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) alleged called for a revolution and asked for the absolute decimation of the ‘neo-Peshwai’ regime forever, as reported by Newsclick. Further adding that the said members also distributed pamphlets, delivered speeches to incite and facilitate “the commission of terrorist act and unlawful activities by use of violence or by other unlawful means and to take part, commit or advocate, abet or incite the commission of unlawful activities being the member of banned organisation CPI (Maoist)”.
Series of raids following complaint
Following Damgude’s complaint, in April, the Pune police raided houses of seven activists. Post that five people were arrested in Maharashtra and Delhi on June 6. The people arrested were Rona Wilson, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut and Surendra Gadling for their alleged connection with the violence at Bhima Koregaon in January.
They were booked under 153(A), 505(1)(B), 117 and 120(B) read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 13, 16, 17, 18, 18(B), 20, 38, 39 and 40 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
As reported by Live Mint, the police officials carrying out the investigation, in this case, said that they found about 200-250 email exchanges between those arrested. They further said that these emails spoke of “preparations for the Elgar Parishad, logistical support, and the kind of speeches to be made”. They also said that these activists were conspiring to overthrow the democratic government of India.
After this raid, again this month, the police raided and arrested five more activists, namely, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Arun Ferreira. They were then, on Supreme Court’s orders put on house arrest. As reported by Firstpost, after the arrests, Shivaji Bodakhe, Joint Commissioner of Pune police said, “Maoists work in urban areas through frontal organisations, and in rural areas through militant organisations. The activists we have arrested were helping the frontal organisations logistically and financially.”
“I have Khule Vichar (open mind)”
Damgude calls Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide, who is also accused of inciting violence at the Bhima Koregaon incident, “Guruji”. Speaking of whom, Damgude said, “I had not met Guruji before April this year, and I went to meet him only because I read in the media that he had made a speech endorsing Manusmriti. So when I met him, I told him it is more important to talk about other issues facing the country right now, like the plight of widows and farmers. And he agreed with me.”
Also, Damgude claims that he has no affiliation with a particular party and says that he has an open mind and that he is neutral in his views and has friends across political parties. Speaking of Hindutva he maintains that although he believes in Hindutva, he doesn’t approve of the extremist forces, “Hindutva is being hijacked by some forces that are not truly Hindutva – like the Sanatan Sanstha,” he says.