The Bombay High Court on Monday refused to direct the Pune Police to permit the Bhim Army to conduct public meetings in Pune, PTI reported.
The Ambedkarite group had moved the High Court the day before after the police refused to allow Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad to address a rally at the SSPMS College ground in Pune in the evening. He was also scheduled to interact with students at Savitribai Phule Pune University on Monday but university officials said no permission was granted for the programme.
A vacation bench of Justice CV Bhadang told the Pune Police to respond to a petition filed by activist Datta Pol, who heads the Bhim Army’s Pune unit, and posted the matter for hearing on January 4. According to the plea, the Bhim Army had petitioned the Pune Police several times, seeking permission to conduct public meetings and gatherings on December 30 and 31 in the city. “However, till date, police have not replied to it,” said Pol’s advocate Nitin Satpute. “We later learnt from the media that our applications have been rejected. Hence, this petition has been filed seeking a direction to police to allow us to hold public meetings.”
Pol also accused the Mumbai Police of illegally detaining Azad and Bhim Army’s Mumbai chief Ashok Kamble so that they do not visit Pune. The Pune Police, however, told the court that this was not true.
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, this year, 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.
In the following months, the Pune Police, which investigated the incident, 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 the police called them – have been arrested in connection with the alleged conspiracy so far.