Police grant permission for Elgar Parishad event to be held on January 30

Published : January 23, 2021 12:35 IST

Arundhati Roy, author and political activist, will be one of the keynote speakers at the 2021 Elgar Parishad on January 30. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, who resigned from the service over the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, will speak at the 2021 Elgar Parishad event. Photo: Photo: By Special Arrangement

Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy and former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan will be among the keynote speakers at the Elgar Parishad event to be held in Pune on January 30. The event, organised by the group ‘Bhima Koregaon Shourya Din Prerna Abhiyan’, was scheduled initially on December 31, 2020, but had to be postponed after the police denied permission.

In a Facebook post on January 22, the group confirmed that the event would be held at the Ganesh Krida Kala Manch in Pune’s Swargate area. “Organizers of Elgar have met Pune Commissioner of Police IPS Amitabh Gupta and Pune Police has given permission for the Elgar Parishad 2021,” it said.

In 2017, the Elgar (“loud declaration”) Parishad had been held on December 31 at Pune’s Shaniwarwada fort to commemorate 200 years of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The occasion serves as a symbol of Dalit pride celebrating the valour of the British East India Company’s Mahar-Dalit regiment, which had defeated the Peshwa-led Marathas on January 1, 1818. However, violence erupted on January 1, 2018, at Bhima Koregaon where lakhs of Dalits had convened, leaving one dead and several other injured. In its aftermath, numerous activists and civil society members have been rounded up on the pretext of the investigation being conducted by the National Investigation Agency and imprisoned under the provisions of draconian laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Retired Bombay High Court judge Justice B.G. Kolse-Patil, one of the organisers and also a ‘main speaker’ this year, told Frontline in a recent interview, “The situation with the jailed activists is grave. We have to keep up the fight, otherwise many more will be targeted in the name of the Elgar. Our aim is to prove the Elgar is not part of an extreme left-wing agenda as they say.”

According to the pamphlet released by ‘Bhima Koregaon Shourya Din Prerna Abhiyan’, Raja Vemula, brother of the late Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula, will also speak on the occasion. The group said on Facebook that one of the reasons for choosing January 30 as the date of the event was to observe the birth anniversary of Rohith, whose suicide in January 2016 had raised questions over caste discrimination at Hyderabad University.

The pamphlet further says that the Elgar Parishad is an attempt “which hopes to contribute towards the class-caste patriarchy ending people’s struggle” and “unite various groups and people engaged in emancipatory struggles at this time in our country”. It also highlights the ongoing farmers protests on the borders of Delhi and the plight of the migrant workers during the COVID-induced lockdown.

The event’s ‘main speakers’ include Shweta and Akashi Bhatt, wife and daughter of jailed Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt; journalist Prashant Kanojia, who was imprisoned by the Uttar Pradesh police over his tweets on two occasions; Ladeeda Sakhaloon and Ayesha Renna N., who became the faces of the resistance at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019; student leader Sharjeel Usmani, who was arrested in connection with the violence at Aligarh Muslim University during the anti-CAA protests; and Abeda Tadvi, mother of Dr Payal Tadvi whose suicide in May 2019 over alleged harassment by senior doctors sparked outrage in Mumbai.

S.Q.R. Iliyas, father of human rights activist and former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Umar Khalid, is also one of the speakers at the event. Other speakers include documentary filmmaker Randeep Madhuke and activist Satyabhama Suryawanshi, besides performances by ‘Artists for Resistance’ such as Kabir Kala Manch and Bant Singh, an agricultural activist and singer from Punjab.

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