The Indian government has been accused of cracking down on dissent by arresting academics, students, rights activists and poets under the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), a stringent anti-terror law. It has, however, denied the allegations.
In 1818, during the ‘Battle of Bhima Koregaon’, Dalit (people in the lowest strata of India’s archaic caste-system) soldiers of the British army trounced the troops of the Brahmin ruler Peshwa Bajirao II. To commemorate the event, every year on 1 January, Dalits and followers of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, who campaigned against social discrimination against Dalits, gather in Bhima Koregaon, a village in Maharashtra, to pay their respect at a victory pillar.
But in 2018, during the 200th commemoration, the usually peaceful gathering turned violent, with clashes breaking out between the Marathas and the Dalits, leading to multiple injuries, at least one death, and numerous arrests.
In the aftermath of the clash, two police reports were filed. In one, two alleged anti-Dalit instigators, Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Rao Bhide, were accused of violence and in the other a “leftist group” with militant links was accused. The Pune police under the BJP-led Maharashtra government quickly gravitated towards the second report and started arresting people. Most of them were not even present during the event, reports say. In 2020, India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) which operates under the Home Ministry, took over the case.