The Bombay High Court on Monday denied relief to detained Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, ANI reported. The Ambedkarite group had on Sunday moved the Bombay High Court against the Pune Police’s refusal to allow public events that the group had planned to conduct that day, The Indian Express reported. The outfit also sought compensation of Rs 10 crore for the Mumbai Police’s “illegal” detention of Dalit activists, including its Azad.
On Monday, the court asked the Pune Police to file a report by January 4, the next date of hearing.
In the Bhim Army’s petition on Sunday, advocate Nitin Satpute urged the High Court to ensure the state does not take action against the group. The petition was filed on behalf of Datta Pol, the Pune unit chief of Bhim Army.
The Bhim Army had planned events in Mumbai on Saturday and in Pune on Sunday, days ahead of the first anniversary of the Koregaon-Bhima caste violence. The events failed to take place after the Mumbai police detained Azad and other activists on Friday evening. They had allegedly been detained after Azad said he would go ahead with the Saturday rally in Worli locality despite not having police permission.
Azad arrived in Pune for the Sunday events, where he was expected to address the “Bhima-Koregaon Sangharsh Mahasabha” at SSPMS Ground and meet students at the Savitribai Phule Pune University. However, the authorities of both places denied permission as they felt Azad’s presence would “create tension”, according to The Hindu.
“This is dictatorship on part of the Modi and Fadnavis governments,” Azad said before he left for Pune on Sunday. “They are scared of the public, hence I have been detained and prevented from holding rallies. How is it that the real perpetrators of the Bhima-Koregaon violence are free and I, a son of Ambedkar, am detained?”
After reaching Pune, he said, “Despite asking for it well in advance, police have not given us the permission [to hold the event]. But we have approached the High Court. If we do not get permission [from the court], I will meet the supporters of Bhim Army in Pune, which is my right. Police are violating the Article 19 of the Indian Constitution by denying us permission.”
On New Year’s Day each year, lakhs of Ambedkarites from across the state visit the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune to commemorate a 19th-century British victory over the Brahmin Peshwa-ruled Maratha empire. Several members of the Dalit Mahar community had fought on the side of the British in the battle. However, in 2018, Bhima Koregaon shot to the national spotlight after unprecedented violence broke out in the village and its surrounding areas. Videos of the violence on January 1 predominantly show people with saffron flags and shirts attacking people and vehicles with blue flags.
Over the next few months, as the Pune police investigated the incident, they claimed to have unearthed a Maoist conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and overthrow the government. Ten human rights lawyers and activists – “urban Naxalites”, as police called them – have been arrested for the alleged conspiracy so far.
The Maharashtra administration has reportedly ordered the Pune Police to be on alert to avoid any incidents of violence this year.