Thursday, January 6, 2011

India: Dalit Activist Sudhir Dhawale arrested on “sedition” charge in Maharashtra

Sudhir Dhawale protesting the arrest of Binayak Sen
Mumbai Mirror, January 3 2010
Dalit activist and editor of Marathi magazine Vidrohi, Sudhir Dhawale, was arrested on Monday morning at Gondia and charged with sedition (sec 124) and under Secs 17, 20 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
These sections relate to: raising funds for terrorist acts; being a member of a terrorist organisation and providing support to a terrorist organisation.
Gondia Sub-Divisional Police Officer Borate told Mumbai Mirror that Sudhir had been named by one Bhimrao, alias Bhanu Bhovate, whom he described as a “State Committee Naxalite leader”, arrested last week in Gondia.Bhovate had reportedly told police that he had given his computer, which had Naxalite literature in it, to Sudhir. Thus it was necessary to seize Sudhir’s computer, said Borate. The police searched Sudhir’s home in Byculla for over three hours in the evening.
Sudhir has been remanded in police custody till January 12. He had addressed a Ambedkar-Phule Sahitya Sammelan near Wardha on Sunday, and was on a train when he was arrested. Borate said they had been trailing him for the last few days, emphasising that his arrest had nothing to do with the Sammelan.
Expressing shock at his arrest, award-winning documentary maker Anand Patwardhan compared it to that of Binayak Sen.
“I know Sudhir well. He is a gentle person. His arrest is an outrage. It’s like what happened with Dr Binayak Sen – hounding those who have sympathy for the oppressed.” Interestingly, Sudhir is an active member of the Mumbai-based Committee for the Release of Binayak Sen.
A well-known name in Dalit and Left circles, Sudhir was one of the founders of the Republican Panther Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal (movement for annihilation of caste), formed on December 6, 2007, Dr Ambedkar’s Mahaparinirvan Day, at Shivaji Park.
This group grew out of the anger of Dalit youth against the Ramabai Nagar firing (1997) and the Khairlanji killings (2006).
According to Shyam Sonar, a member of the Republican Panthers, their group was created seeing the failure of the Dalit Panthers to live up to their original aim of working among people to wipe out caste. “We believe in raising awareness about atrocities on Dalits and the government’s destructive pattern of development in a democratic way,” said Sonar.
A full-time activist, Sudhir edited the bi-monthly Marathi magazine Vidrohi, which has among its editorial advisers Nikhil Wagle, Anand Patwardhan, and Anand Teltumbde.
His wife, a nurse, ran their home, while his friends paid his mobile bills and for his railway pass, said Sonar. Sudhir has two school going children.
A year ago, Sudhir had performed Hindi film director Sagar Sarhadi’s play Raj Durbar in Nagpur. Describing him as a “decent man and an enthusiastic and curious student of theatre”, Sarhadi said his arrest was a form of “witch hunting”.
Folk artiste shahir Sambhaji Bhagat recalled having first met Sudhir as a college student in Nagpur, where he had attended Bhagat’s theatre workshops. “Sudhir was very active in organising the parallel Vidrohi Marathi Sahitya Sammelans,” said Sambhaji. “He is also a good singer. His arrest bodes ill for those who believe in open democratic work.”
Last week, Home Minister Chidambaram had asked Maharashtra’s police to go on the offensive against Naxalites in the state. “When the government puts pressure on the police, they catch Leftists who work in an open manner because these are easy targets,” said Anand Patwardhan. “Dr Binayak Sen and now Sudhir, are being tarred as Naxalites for doing human rights work. It is a continuation of the dangerous pattern of blurring the lines in order to shut people up.”


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