The Bihar police has trained its guns on Dr Vilakshan Ravidas, a noted Dalitbahujan thinker. At a press conference on 4 August 2022, Pankaj Kumar, the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Lakhisarai district, levelled several serious charges against Dr Ravidas. The SP said that Ravidas had instigated youth to indulge in violence during a protest against the Agnipath scheme in Lakhisarai on 17 June 2022. He said Ravidas had used his mobile phone to mobilize the youth. The district police chief’s accusations were based solely on the statement of one Manshyam Das, who was arrested on 4 August 2022 on the suspicion of being a Naxalite. Even as the police are trying to implicate Ravidas, many Dalitbahujan intellectuals and social activists have come out in his support. They include former Rajya Sabha member Ali Anwar, according to whom this is a conspiracy to silence a powerful Dalitbahujan voice.
Challenging the SP’s accusations, Ravidas, wrote to the Director General of Police (DGP) of Bihar on 7 August, seeking a high-level enquiry.
Ravidas is a professor of history at Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur and is the head of the University Department of Ambedkar Thought and Social Work since 2014. Known for his powerful oratory, Ravidas has been a prominent face in non-political events focused on Dalitbahujan issues in Bihar. Of late, he has joined the campaign seeking a caste census. Is he being framed because of this? Is he the victim of a conspiracy? Or is there some truth in the claims of the police?
The police had accused him of being a Naxalite in 2016, too. Interestingly, the same Manshyam Das’ statement was the basis of that accusation, too. At the time, the issue was a land mafia usurping university land. In his letter to the DGP, Ravidas said, “On 7 February 2016, the same Naxalite Manshyam Das, at the behest of the land mafia and the police administration, had accused me with of being a Naxalite in his statement in case number 19/16 registered at Tatarpur police station. Further probe revealed that his accusation was absolutely false and baseless.”
Dr Ravidas’ posers
In his letter, Ravidas said that Lakhisarai SP Pankaj Kumar had declared him guilty solely on the basis of the statement of Manshyam Das, without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. Referring to the violent incidents on 17 June 2022, Ravidas wrote that in his posts on WhatsApp groups and on Facebook, he had opposed violent protests, arson and vandalism and had urged the youth to agitate peacefully and observe restraint.
His Facebook post dated 16 June 2022, appealing to the youth and the students to maintain peace, reads: “Thousands of students and youth are holding both peaceful and violent protests in Bihar and other states to protest the Modi government’s ‘Agnipath’/ ‘Agniveer’ scheme for recruitment to the armed forces. The Modi government has dashed their dreams of joining the armed forces. Their hard work has gone to waste. Modi backing out on his promise of giving two crore jobs every year and instead opening just 10 lakh contractual vacancies in the past eight years is utter dishonesty, deceit and fraud perpetrated on the youth. The new recruits will retire after serving for four years. That would make their lives, jobs and future uncertain. Against this backdrop, the anger and resentment among the youth is natural. But they should use democratic and peaceful means to vent their anger and resentment. The youth and the students should try their best to keep away from violence. This scheme is in fact aimed at recruiting youth associated with the RSS and the BJP into the armed forces for four years and using them to serve the industrialist friends of the government after their retirement. Also, these youths, who will be imparted military training at government expense, would contribute to the building of a Brahmanical Hindu Rashtra.”
Ali Anwar, other social activists and intellectuals come out in support
Extending his support to Prof Bilakshan Ravidas, former Rajya Sabha member Ali Anwar questioned the motive of the police administration of Lakhisarai district. He said, “Dr Ravidas is an Ambedkarite thinker and commands respect in his area. The claim that he instigated anyone to commit violence is absolutely baseless. He has been my co-speaker in many programmes and his thoughts are focused on the rights and entitlements of the Dalits, the Bahujans and the Pasmandas.”
Rinku Yadav, convener of Samajik Nyay Manch, Bihar says, “The state government wants to muzzle the voice of the Dalitbahujans, which is getting stronger by the day. It is hatching conspiracies to achieve this objective. This action of the government is condemnable.”
Prof Yogendra of Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University says, “What is being said about Dr Bilakshan Ravidas is absolutely bogus. He is not of such nature or inclinations. According to the police, the incident happened in Lakhisarai and Dr Ravidas lives in Bhagalpur. So, where is the connection? Earlier, in 2016, too, a conspiracy was hatched to implicate Dr Ravidas. At the time, I went to the police station and was the first to raise the slogan that the conspiracy to frame Dr Ravidas should end. This is unbelievable. The BJP [which was part of the Bihar government when its police made these accusations against Prof Ravidas] is uncomfortable with people who talk about the rights of the deprived.”
Bhagalpur resident Uday, who is associated with Paridhi and Rashtra Sewa Dal, said, “I have three points to make. First, the SP of Lakhisarai should not have held a press conference merely because a certain person had made an utterance. Anyone can make any allegation. Second, it is being said that WhatsApp groups were used to instigate violence. The police should have examined Dr Bilakshan Ravidas’ phone before making such a claim. Third, Dr Ravidas is an Ambedkarite and is vocal on issues related to social justice.”
(Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Anil)
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