The forgotten of Bhima-Koregaon arrests: Ordeals of Dalit advocate Surendra Gadling and revolutionary poet Varavara Rao

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

~ William Shakespeare, Henry VI

Dick the Butcher had quite an advice for Jake Cade, who wanted to establish his own rule. This advice rather seems to have been taken much seriously by the government of the day, for they are not sparing critics, activists, intellectuals who all fit within the defines of social lawyering.

For a while, Maharashtra Police has been making every effort to ensure prolonged incarceration of those who advocated the causes of the masses and the downtrodden. While the nation only knows Dr Anand Teltumbde’s dramatic arrest and poetic temporary release, many are still unaware of Advocate Surendra Gadling and veteran poet Varavara Rao, being shackled with yet another fabricated case.


Late night of January 30, 2019. Inmates in barracks of Yerwada jail finished yet another liberty-less day of their precious lives. While many of them must have been thinking of their near and dear ones, Advocate Surendra Gadling was deep buried in reading the chargesheet of another Dalit inmate, who had spent over six years in the same jail awaiting outcome of his protracted trial.



That night, surprisingly a constable came rushing to Gadling, commanded him to get ready and follow him. Defiance resulted into pleadings, then requests. Abiding to the poor chap, Gadling put on his clothes, took one note book and followed him to the jailer’s chamber, whereat he came to be handed over to Gadchiroli Police. Questions remained questions alone. There cannot be anything but submission behind the colonial bars, so Gadling followed it.



By now, they were only curious as to which case is being forged against them; not for once they thought about why another case. The poet was handed over a Marathi hand-scripted letter which stated the reasons for his arrest. He was made to sign it. While everything till then was under suspense, Gadling made them open their mouth and inform the duo of which new case it is.

It was, of course, the Surjagad truck arson case, in which police innovated the duo to be the masterminds. They knew their journey is going to be too long, at least 800km. Despite their requests, they were not allowed to go back to their barracks and take other essentials.

Late in the night, Gadling’s wife, Minal, was informed, sending frenzy amongst all the lawyers who were representing him in the case.

Surendra Gadling.


The very implication of Gadling in the same, being sub-judiced before the highest judicial forum, which is about to deliver its verdict on that count, was clearly an illegal act. On the other hand, the production warrant to implicate Gadling, despite it being sub-judiced, was obtained on November 12, 2018 — just a couple of days before the Supreme Court was to hear his statutory bail plea. However, it was never acted upon, fearing backlash from the Supreme Court, since the counsel representing Gadling brought it to the Supreme Court’s notice.

Very interestingly, the application seeking warrant against Gadling, alleged him and other four arrested as “Central Committee Members” of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). However much hilarious the allegation happened to be, it also alleged that Varavara Rao appreciated Gadling for his guidance to carry out arson, and that the police found out the same from seized electronic material. From this, police invented that the duo are the masterminds of said arson, which took place in 2016 and in which till date no chargesheet has been filed even against the already bailed out persons.



Subsequent developments only strengthen what he feared and expressed.

  1. Even when warrant was obtained much earlier i.e. on November 12, 2018 against Gadling, it was not executed till January 30, 2019. The reason offered before the court was that Gadling was arguing in person his own bail application before the Pune Court and hence they desisted from acting on it. However, even now bail arguments are not over and case is being heard on the point of supply of mirror images to the activists.
  2. Though production warrant was obtained against Gadling on November 12, 2018, the police did not seek production warrant for Varavara Rao till January 29, 2019; particularly so, since Rao has been in same jail since November 17, 2018 and is not arguing in person, so he could have been very well taken away for investigation. This also remains unanswered. Except, of course, the alleged “offence is very serious”.
  3. Very evidence is being examined by the court at Pune, wherein punishment is sought for this offence as well. When arguments of contravention with the principle of double jeopardy were advanced, the State had no excuse, but only the evergreen reply that “offence is serious”.
  4. In the remand report, though police custody of 14 days was sought, there is no apparent reason as to why such a long time was deemed necessary. Even the remand order does not seek to satisfy as to why 12-day police remand is thought prudent or logical. Except, of course, the “offence is very serious”.
  5. When a wheelchair-bound person like Professor G N Saibaba used to be produced before the Gadchiroli Court, there used to be extremely high security. Like a fortress, the court used to be surrounded by heavily armed police men. The Gadchiroli town is far from the hotbeds of the naxal activitiesl still the bandobast used to be extremely high. However, when Gadling and Rao were brought to the hot bed, i.e. Aheri, there was hardly any police force. Barring 10-12 police men in three vehicles, there was no bandobast at all. Whereas there ought to have been much more bandobast than usual, if the duo is believed to be nothing less than the central committee members of the CPI (Maoist), by the police itself. In fact, it was the claim of police that the poet Varavara Rao, is a kind of a “prime minister of the Maoist government”. If that was not just to make public opinion, then why were the police so inattentive, given that the Maoist could have tried to secure their alleged “prime minister” by attacking the police force?.
  6. Again knowing very well that the production warrant is being adjudicated by the Supreme Court itself, why was it pressed while it is still subjudiced? Why would Pune Police not object to such permission and object to it, citing judicial intervention in the matter?
  7. What was the hurry that Gadling and Rao had to be removed from the Yerwada prison so late in the night? Whereas the police could have very well produced the two of them before the Pune Court gave a hearing to them and obtained permission of Pune Court in front of them. Instead of moving an application for permission at 6 pm before the court, which court seems to have allowed forthwith, they could have done the work during the office hours.
  8. Dr Anand Teltumbade’s anticipatory application came to be rejected at 5:30PM on February 1 2019. When journalists questioned the investigating officer as to whether he would proceed to arrest the celebrated author-academic, the IO in reply stated that Teltumbde still had time of 11 days left with him in view of Supreme Court’s order and he could not be arrested till then. However, to utter shock and surprise of one and all, he came to be arrested at 3:30 am on February 2 from the Mumbai airport upon his arrival with the intention of filing his application before the Bombay High Court. Though all the legal pundits except the Public Prosecutor called it outright contempt of court, the police machinery was adamant on their stand and produced him before the special court, which eventually held his custody itself to be illegal and directed him to be set at liberty.
Varavara Rao while he was being led to the police vehicle in November last year | Photo credit: N Venugopal


From my little understanding of the investigating officer in both cases, they seem to be fine men, though ambitious. While they are assured absolute impunity, I also have reason to believe that they are being made to take action against their will, either under pressure, or with some allurement.



From all the above, and many more things, which if written will run into volumes, it can be easily understood that the agenda is rather malafide, actuated with malice with intent to “kill all the lawyers” — at least in spirit if not physically, especially, the lawyers who advocate the social cause — either by incarcerating them, or crippling them one way or other.

Not long ago, when India’s public intellectuals returned their awards one after another, pointing out growing intolerance, they were attacked like anything. When some others expressed their fear, they were threatened with dire consequences. Actors like the late Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan are only few amongst them who were targeted viciously. When the “Chelameshwar four” rebelled, they were called all the names possible.



Their release and then resurrection has definitely taught the Government to ensure prolonged incarceration of such people so that they don’t become painful for the smooth slaughtering of institutions and the spirit of the people alike.

Definitely, Dick the Butcher was not wrong in advising Jake Cade to kill all the lawyers on priority in order to have his regime established without a hiccup. It surely is a good idea, to ensure one’s fascist, dictatorial rule over the toiling, suffering masses.

Given democracy thrives on the shoulders of critics, if such dissenters themselves are eliminated and/or crippled, what will remain is only sycophancy, and that is the sweetest joy our dictators so desire.


The Leaflet