Sudhir Dhawale is an Indian activist, actor and publisher of the bi-monthly Marathi magazine Vidrohi. He is also the founder of the organisation, Republican Panthers.
He has campaigned for the effective implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. In particular, he took up the cause of Dalits in violent incidents such as the Ramabai Nagar Dalit Hatyakand in Ghatkopar in Mumbai (1997), the Kherlanji massacre, Rohidas Tupe murder, Baban Misal murder, the Manorama Kamble gang rape and murder case in Nagpur and the Sahebrao Jondhale murder. Through his editorial, journalistic and stage work he tried to emphasize the plight of Dalits. Before their marriage, his wife was an activist for women’s rights. Afterwards she took up nursing to support their family while he pursued activism.
Life and Activism
He was born into a Dalit family at Indora in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Throughout his life, he actively participated in several protests organised to express dissent against the atrocities committed against Dalits. In the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots, Sudhir and his friends launched the Vidrohi magazine, which aspired to champion the voice of common and fact-finding reports. Around 2,000 copies were published. After the Khairlanji massacre in 2006, he established Ramabai Nagar-Khairlanji Hatyaakand Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti. He was first arrested in the year 2011 under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) with the charges of being a member and providing support to terrorist groups. His arrest in the year 2011 became a huge human rights controversy since his house was raided by the police in Mumbai when his two children, back then at the age of 10 and 15, were alone at home. Dhawale was acquitted of all the charges later in the year 2014. During his time in jail he wrote 3 books.
Circumstances of Arrest
He co-organised the Elgaar Parishad on 31 December 2017, to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle. The event was followed by violent clashes. In response, the state government set up an inquiry commission headed by a retired judge to look into the riots. He and fellow activists went around gathering evidence to put before the commission. On 6 June 2018, he was arrested by Pune Police in a joint operation, in which four others- Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson- were also arrested. They were accused of having Maoist links and charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Charges & Allegations
He is charged with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for organising Elgar Parishad.
In the year 2019, the Supreme Court denied default bail to him, including eight more activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case. Dhawale has challenged the rejection of his default bail plea and is currently lodged in Taloja Central Jail.