Dalit Leaders Say Bhima Koregaon Attack was “Pre-Planned”, Vow to Throw Out BJP-led “Peshwai Rule”
January 3, 2018
Tension has gripped Maharashtra a day after a person was killed, 25 vehicles were torched and more than 100 vehicles were damaged in stone pelting after individuals allegedly with saffron flags attacked dalits and their vehicles in Pune district. Lakhs of people gather on January 1 in Bhima Koregaon village every year to mark the anniversary of a battle in 1818, where British troops comprising mostly of Mahar (a Scheduled Caste) soldiers had defeated the Brahmin Peshwa-led Maratha army. Dalit communities consider the battle as a victory over Brahmin oppression under the Peshwas. An obelisk, with names of those killed, was installed by the British at the spot.
According to the police, 28-year-old Rahul Phatangale suffered injuries in the clashes yesterday and succumbed to injuries at Sassoon General Hospital in Pune.
According to Pune rural police, four-wheelers, including a police van, were among the torched vehicles. The mob was brought under control around 1.30 pm. Shops and petrol pumps were shut. A “bandobast” was already in place in the area as the villagers were opposed to Monday’s rally. Two CRPF companies, summoned on Monday, were stationed at nearby Shikrapur to prevent any further trouble.
“There was tension in the area since Monday. Trouble broke out in the morning after a few men with saffron flags visited the area. Later, villagers set ablaze eight vehicles on the highway and some threw stones at vehicles,” Vishwas Nangre Patil IGP (Kolhapur Range) told Newsclick.
He said no arrest has been made so far. “We have cordoned off the roads leading to the Koregaon memorial. Heavy police bandobast has been deployed. A majority of the miscreants were hiding in the farms along the Pune-Ahmednagar highway and pelting stones,” he added.
A complete band is being observed in Aurangabad district and in few areas of Pune and Nanded districts. Several schools and colleges were shut in Mumbai as the protests turn violent. Protesters are attempting ‘Raasta Roko’ in Mulund, Chembur, Bhandup, Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar and Nehru Nagar in Kurla. Shops in Mulund and Chembur were forcibly shut. Mumbai’s Harbour Line was also blocked by protesters on Tuesday.
Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, demanded freeze of all government aid to villages in Chakan-Koregaon taluka in Pune accusing them of provoking trouble.
Overall situation was still tense at several places in the state. Security has been beefed up. Section 144 has been imposed in different regions, including Mumbai.
Organizers of the Bhima Koregaon campaign dubbed the Fadnavis-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state as the new “Peshwa rule”.
“It was a planned attack facilitated by the police and the government. They (the miscreants) first attacked (on February 28) the memorial of Ganpat Gaikwad, who belonged to the Mahar caste (and had conducted Sambhaji’s last rites in defiance of an imperial order from Aurangzeb). Without the backing of the state, nobody can dare to attack brave Dalits who defeated the Brahmin Peshwa-led Maratha army,” alleged Vira Sathidar while talking to Newsclick.
The Shirur police station confirmed that there was an attack at Gaikwad’s memorial last week.
“Peshwai”, he said, is a term being used for an ideology which is against the oppressed caste. “It was not Mahars alone who fought from the British side, there were even Marathas and Muslims. And therefore, creating ruckus in the event is an attempt to widen the gaps between Mahars and Marathas. But we will not tolerate such attack. We will sit and come up with a plan of action. We will throw this government out,” he said.
At the same time, he sees the attack by allegedly right wing organizations as a “success” of their campaign.
Dalit intellectuals and activists from the rest of the country have described the Monday’s incident as a “new beginning of Dalit politics in Maharshtra”.
“Koregaon Bhima must be seen from two angles — the British fulfilled their agenda to gain power and the oppressed communities, comprising agricultural workers, found a way to fight oppressors,” said Paul Divakar, of the Delhi-based National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights.
RS Kamble, a Dalit leader in Maharshtra, said, “Jignesh Mevani and Prakash Ambedkar coming together and other backward parties joining the move is the beginning of new dalit politics after the Dalit Panther era.”
Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale on Monday demanded police protection for Dalits and asked for additional forces to be deployed in Bhima Koregaon. “Dalit groups visiting Bhima Koregaon village in vehicles were halted at Sanaswadi, a village near Koregaon,” Athawale said in a statement . “Stones were hurled at them. No police force was available for their protection.”
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar alleged that right-wing forces had instigated the people of Vadhu Budruk.
“People have been coming to this place for the last 200 years. Nothing of this sort has ever taken place. Since it was the 200th anniversary of a significant event, a larger crowd was expected and hence the administration should have been more careful,” said Pawar.
First published in Newsclick.
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