Home News Atrocities Maharashtra: Dalit politics on the boil after violence in Mumbai, Pune

Maharashtra: Dalit politics on the boil after violence in Mumbai, Pune

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Mumbai grinds to a halt after Dalit protests against the Bhima-Koregaon violence in Pune clogs arterial roads, stall local train system, calls for Maharashtra bandh tomorrow

Mumbai: Dalit politics in Maharashtra, homeland of Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar, is on the boil after arson and stone-pelting in Pune on new year’s day provoked a backlash in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Tuesday.

When thousands of Dalits gathered on the outskirts of Pune on Monday to observe the 200th anniversary of what is known as the Bhima-Koregaon battle (East India Company’s army defeated the Peshwas), some vehicles were targeted with stones. One person, who remains unidentified, died reportedly due to stone-pelting and several were injured.

On Tuesday, Dalit protesters took to the streets and blocked roads in Sion, Chembur, Mulund and Ghatkopar areas of Mumbai. Public and private vehicles in Mumbai and the larger metropolitan region were attacked with stones. In parts of Marathwada and Vidarbha regions like Akola, Nanded, and Beed, which have sizeable pockets of Dalit population, incidents of stone-pelting and arson were reported.

The protesters targeted public transport vehicles and blocked roads at several points in Mumbai and other places in the state. For a few hours, the harbour line, one of three suburban train services in Mumbai, was shut after protestors sat on the tracks.

ALSO READ: Mumbai local trains halted as Dalit protests against Bhima-Koregaon violence spread

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the home portfolio as well, ordered a judicial probe into the Bhima-Koregaon violence. He issued a stern warning to those “spreading rumours on social networking sites to create panic” and said action would be taken against them.

The chief minister also announced payment of Rs10 lakh to the family of the person who reportedly died due to stone-pelting in Pune.

Prakash Ambedkar, a Dalit leader and president of the Bharipa-Bahujan Mahasangh, alleged that activists of Shiv Pratishthan and Hindu Ekta Aaghadi, both organisations comprising upper-caste members from the Maratha and Brahmin castes, had attacked Dalits in Bhima-Koregaon on Monday.

“Members of Shiv Pratishthan and Hindu Ekta Aaghadi pelted stones at Dalits who had peacefully gathered in Bhima-Koregaon to pay their respects to the Mahar soldiers who fought in the Bhima-Koregaon battle,” Ambedkar said at a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Bhima-Koregaon violence: Prakash Ambedkar calls for Maharashtra bandh tomorrow

The Bharipa-Bahujan Mahasangh, which has a strong presence in parts of Vidarbha, has given a call for Maharashtra bandh (shutdown) on 3 January. Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar too held a press conference to blame “the lack of police preparedness” for Monday’s violence.

Another Dalit leader, Ramdas Athavale, who is a union minister of state for social justice and whose party Republican Party of India is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, alleged that some “anti-social Marathas” had attacked Dalits with the intent of disturbing the peace in Maharashtra.

The battle of Bhima-Koregaon holds considerable significance in Maharashtra’s Dalit narrative. On 1 January, 1818, a small contingent of the East India Company’s army defeated the much larger force of Peshwa Bajirao II near Pune. The battle marked the end of the rule of the Peshwas, who, according to the Dalit narrative, committed and condoned caste excesses against Dalits. The Peshwas were Brahmins and held the seat of Maratha power from Pune.

Mumbai Dalit protests: Jet Airways, Air India waive off ticket cancellation charges

According to Dalit intellectuals and activists, the East India Company’s army comprised largely of soldiers from the Dalit Mahar caste, who by fighting alongside British soldiers avenged the caste excesses against them during the rule of the Peshwas.

The British army erected a war memorial at Perne village near Pune as a mark of respect to the soldiers who died in the battle. Dalits across India, especially those of the Mahar caste, observe 1 January as the Mahar Shaurya Din (Mahar valour day). Ambedkar also documented this battle as the expression of the Mahar angst and valour, and visited the memorial in the 1920s to pay his respects.

Courtesy : http://www.livemint.com/Politics/453LOlotGHKbniWJCOYX6I/Maharashtra-Dalit-politics-on-the-boil-after-violence-in-Mu.html
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