Dhawale, a Mumbai-based activist and journalist, wrote about human rights violations against Dalits in the Marathi-language Vidrohi, a monthly he founded and edited.
Police arrested Dhawale in the Wardha district of Maharashtra state, where he had traveled to attend a Dalit meeting, and charged him with sedition under section 124A of the Indian penal code, waging war against the state under sections 121 and 121A under the Indian penal code, and alleged involvement with a terrorist group under sections 17, 20, and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act , according to news reports and Anand Teltumbde, a member of the Mumbai-based Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights. Sections 124 and 121 of the penal code carry a potential death penalty.
Police said a Maoist insurgent in custody had accused Dhawale of involvement in the banned organization’s war against the state in tribal areas of India, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Teltumbde. Police searched Dhawale’s home on January 3, 2011, and seized books and a computer, news reports said.
Dhawale’s supporters said he was detained because he was a critic of a state-supported, anti-Maoist militia active in Chhattisgarh state, a center of the violence between Maoists and the government. In a documentary on the case, Darshana Dhawale, the journalist’s wife, said police had accused her husband of supporting the Maoists in his writings. The makers of the film-titled “Sudhir Dhawale: Dissent = Sedition?”-also interviewed Teltumbde, who said Vidrohi covered the Maoists but did not support them.
On January 20, 2011, police also accused Dhawale of hanging Maoist posters in Gondia district in December 2010. Dhawale’s wife said the journalist was in Mumbai, not Gondia, at the time, according to local news reports. No formal charges were filed against Dhawale, and that case against him was soon dropped, Teltumbde told CPJ.
Shortly after proceedings began in 2011, a court in Maharashtra state withdrew the sedition charges against Dhawale, but kept the other charges, Teltumbde told CPJ.
Dhawale was denied bail in March 2012. His trialwas ongoing in late 2013. He was imprisoned in a Kanpur jail in Maharashtra state, according to Teltumbde.