Mumbai, Jan 3: Following caste-based violence over the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune, angry Dalits staged rail and road blockades in Mumbai and carried out agitations in different parts of Maharashtra on Tuesday. Dalit outfits including Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a Dalit party headed by Prakash Ambedkar – the grandson of Bharat Ratna B.R. Ambedkar, called for ‘Maharashtra Bandh’ today to express anger over the Pune incidents.
Incidents of violence reported in several parts of Mumbai as thousands of Dalits took to the streets in Chembur, Mankhurd, Ghatkopar and Bhandup demanding action against the perpetrators of the Pune riots. Scores of Dalit youth blocked the Harbor Line near Govandi and Chembur leading to disruption of local train services. Similarly, hundreds of youths swooped onto the roads in eastern suburbs asking shops, restaurants and commercial establishments to down shutters and staged roadblocks.
Local trains and traffic movement resumed after Mumbai Police intervened and detained over 100 persons. However, the roadblocks resulted in massive vehicular snarls all over the city. Similar agitation was staged in other parts of Maharashtra, including Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Dhule, Beed, Nashik, Pune, Solapur, Thane and Palghar. Protests turned violent in several parts of the state and at least 25 buses of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, besides private luxury buses and other vehicles, were damaged in stone pelting by riotous mobs.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a judicial probe by a sitting High Court judge and a CID investigation into the Koregaon-Bhima incident. Pimpri Police filed a case against Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide who head Hindu Ekta Aghadi and Shivraj Pratishthan, respectively, and others under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and under various sections of the IPC including attempt to murder. The duo were booked after one Anita Savle alleged that she and her friend were attacked by a group of people near Vadhu village adjacent to Bhima Koregaon.
Savle alleged that the entire attack and arson was orchestrated by the duo. Meanwhile, a complaint was filed against Dalit activist and MLA Jignesh Mevani and JNU student Umar Khalid. The complainant alleged that they made provocative statements that led to tension between two communities. The duo attended the event in Pune marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
Referring to the Koregaon-Bhima incident, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) wanted to keep the Dalits at the bottom of the society. “A central pillar of the RSS/BJP’s fascist vision for India is that Dalits should remain at the bottom of Indian society. Una, Rohith Vemula and now Bhima-Koregaon are potent symbols of the resistance,” Rahul tweeted. NCP chief Sharad Pawar blamed the administration for the violence and demanded a probe into the incident.
Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut hinted at a “big conspiracy” in the recent spurt in sporadic caste-related violence that has been erupting in the state, which needs to be thoroughly investigated and “the hidden hand” must be exposed. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati blamed BJP and RSS for caste-based violence in Maharashtra.
The violence had occurred at an event to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon in which the British Army comprising Dalits had defeated the Peshwas. A large section of Dalits views the historical battle as the defeat of the ‘casteism’ of upper-caste Peshwas.