The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has lashed out at the BJP-led Maharashtra government condemning the detention of Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad and his colleagues and demanded their immediate release. They also insisted that permission be granted to Azad for the public meeting scheduled to be held on Saturday.
The party claimed that after Azad’s detention on Friday, Subodh More, state committee member of Jati Anta Sangharsh Samiti (affiliated to the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch), and Bhim Army leaders Ashok Kamble, Sunil Thorat, Mahadu Pawar and others, have also been arrested on Saturday morning. They have been taken to an unknown location and are out of reach, they said. These leaders had gone to Manali Hotel in Malad to meet Chandrashekhar Azad, who was detained ahead of his public meeting and rally to be held in Jambori Maidan in Worli.
Bhim army supporters being taken away from Manali Hotel by police, where Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad is present. pic.twitter.com/MMjh3kMtjN
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) December 29, 2018
NCP leader Jitendra Awhad also went to meet the Bhim Army chief and was escorted inside the hotel by the DCP to meet Azad on Saturday. On coming out, he said, “Azad was arrested from the gates of Chaityabhumi. This is gross incompetence of the government and they are trying to curb the voice of dissent. He has been kept uninformed of why he is being kept in a house arrest.” However, he added that Azad has been kept in a decent room. “The room is not locked or barred. He is just not being allowed to leave or interact with people outside. This is unconstitutional,” added Awhad.
On Friday, the leaders from the Maharashtra unit of Bhim Army said the police did not allow Azad and his supporters to leave the hotel to meet media persons. “Police vehicles have been called to arrest us. Why is Prime Minister Narendra Modi trying to destroy Constitutional rights? Don’t we have freedom of speech? We will not tolerate this,” said Azad, who is visiting the city for the first time.
According to the Bhim Army, it has received permission from the PWD to hold the rally and event in Worli. However, the police claimed the organisers had been denied permission by the PWD. “Only cultural programmes can be held at the ground… We then asked them to shift their rally to Shanmukhanand Hall but they are not interested in an indoor venue,” said a senior police officer.
Ashok Kamble had said they will hold the event at Worli despite police denying permission. “It is not a political rally or event. The Bhim Army is a social organisation and is having a cultural event,” he had added.
The CPI(M) also referred to Bhima Koregaon violence that took place a year ago and demanded the strict action against Manohar Bhide and Milind Ekbote, the alleged “perpetrators” of the attacks.