MUMBAI/PUNE: A day after the bicentenary of a British battle with the Peshwas—marked by Dalits as a momentous episode in their history—was marred by clashes between the commemorating group and right-wingers opposed to the event, violent protests by Dalits erupted across Maharashtra on Tuesday.
While arterial roads and railway tracks in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs were blocked for over six hours, orders prohibiting unlawful assembly had to be issued in parts of Pune and Aurangabad to prevent crowds from forcing commercial establishments to shut.
Ten lakh Dalits had turned up at Koregaon Bhima, 30km from Pune, on Monday to mark 200 years of the January 1, 1818 clash in which the Mahar regiment, which signed up on the Raj’s side against the Peshwas, had put up a valiant fight. While top Dalit leaders from Maharashtra were present, so were Gujarat’s new Dalit face Jignesh Mewani, AIMPLB member Maulana Azhari and activist Umar Khalid.
Police said 25 vehicles were torched by members of right-wing groups opposed to the gathering. They also damaged 50 vehicles by hurling stones. A 28-yearold returning from office died after being hit by stones. While CM Devendra Fadnavis ordered a judicial inquiry into the Koregaon Bhima violence, a CID probe into the death of the Pune youth and compensation of Rs 10 lakh for his family, his announcements failed to pacify Dalit leaders, with Prakash Ambedkar calling for a Maharashtra bandh on Wednesday.
The Shiv Sena, known for enforcing bandhs in Mumbai, had till late Tuesday evening not issued any counter call to thwart the Bahujan Republic Party’s (BRP) call. Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit out at the Centre, tweeting that BJP’s “fascist vision” was to blame for increasing incidents of violence against Dalits.
Rahul hailed Tuesday’s protests as “potent symbols” of Dalit resistance against the Modi government’s “anti-Dalit” policy. NCP chief Sharad Pawar blamed the BJP-led state government for inept handling of the situation in Koregaon Bhima.
Though sections of the media reported that the Koregaon clash was between Marathas and Dalits, Ambedkar said that was not the case and blamed Hindutva groups with an alleged Brahminical bias. He said the judicial inquiry ordered by Fadnavis was not acceptable and demanded it should be conducted by a non-Dalit judge.
He blamed Sambhaji Bhide of Shivraj Pratishthan and Milind Ekbote of Samasta Hindu Ekta Sabha for inciting Monday’s violence. Though Ekbote refuted all charges, Pune police booked him and Bhide for attempt to murder, among other charges of the IPC, and under the Arms Act and Atrocities Act. Pune city police have transferred the case to Pune rural police at Shikrapur for further action.
A total of 154 buses were damaged across the state, including 20 BEST buses in Mumbai alone. The BEST buses were damaged in incidents across the suburbs, including Mulund, Chembur, Deonar and Kurla
Source : timesofindia