Free Press Journal

Going Backward! Violence in Maharashtra ‘Castes’ shadow on image of emerging India

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Photo by BL SONI

Elsewhere in the world, people were seen welcoming 2018 with joy and peace, but in Maharashtra, Pune district was taken aback due to communal violence. A community of people were trying to prove its superiority over other community. The event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune district, in which the British Army comprising Dalits had defeated upper-caste Peshwas, was marred by incidents of stone pelting and vandalism.

Some right-winged leaders provoked people and evoked caste violence in Pune. While people forgot the whole crux of protests and became violent, incidents of stone pelting and property disruption were registered. Many people were injured and vehicles were torched.

This photograph taken in January 1, 2018, shows Indian policemen taking positions as clashes broke up between two groups during celebrations to mark the bicentenary of a British-Peshwa war, in Koregaon Bhima village, some 30 kms from Pune. / AFP PHOTO / –


Maharashtra in so many years hasn’t seen a lot of caste-based violence, but it was proven that some right-winged leaders in the state can ignite the same. Earlier, in 2017, we saw caste-based violence ignited by a group of community in Rajasthan. The issue erupted due to a Bollywood movie named ‘Padmavati’, which was set to release on November 17, and had to be postponed due to protests. The Rajput Karnik Sena, a fringe caste group has called for the film to be banned. The group, which had disrupted the shooting and slapped Bhansali on the set of the film earlier this year, vandalised cinemas and threatened to chop off Padukone’s nose, referring to a story in the epic Ramayana where a character has her nose chopped off as punishment.

The most interesting and funny part of this protest was that the protesters have still not seen the movie and had been staging protest based on conspiracy theories.

The fact due to which the caste violence in Pune started:

This photograph taken in January 1, 2018, shows Indian policemen taking positions as clashes broke up between two groups during celebrations to mark the bicentenary of a British-Peshwa war, in Koregaon Bhima village, some 30 kms from Pune. / AFP PHOTO / –

On December 29, 2017, in Vadhu Budruk, 3 kilometres away from Koregaon-Bhima in Pune district, some unidentified miscreants gathered at the tomb of a local hero and defiled a worn nameplate at the site.

Apparently, the tomb belonged to Govind Gopal Mahar (Gaikwad), a wrestler by profession, who had performed the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. The 31-year-old Sambhaji was assassinated in 1689 and his body severely mutilated by Emperor Aurangzeb’s soldiers.

Cut to December 31, 2017:

Mumbai : Bhima Koregaon clashes spread to Mumbai, rasta roko and stone pelting ensues at Chembur . Photo by BL SONI

A ‘Yalgar Parishad’ was held in the historic Shaniwarvada area of Pune to commemorate the eve of the 200th anniversary of the historic Koregaon-Bhima war between the vanquished army of Peshwa Bajirao II, and a small force of the victorious East India Company that comprised a large number of Mahar Dalits.

The conference saw power-packed speeches by several prominent personalities, including newly-elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, JNU student Umar Khalid, Radhika Vemula, Soni Sori, Vinay Ratan Singh, Prashant Dontha and others. Despite tight security, some groups waving saffron flags allegedly pelted stones at the gathering and this soon degenerated into violent riots, leading to the death of a 28-year old youth from Nanded, Rahul Fatangale, with more than 20 vehicles damaged.

The legal battle:

Soon after the incident, CM Devendra Fadnavis ordered announced a judicial probe by a “sitting judge” of the Bombay High Court, a CID investigation into the violence and compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the victim’s family who died in the violent riot.

But the Dalits also moved swiftly and pressurised police to file a complaint against Shivjagar Pratisthan president Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti president Milind Ekbote. The police in Pune’s Pimpri suburb lodged a complaint soon against them both.

Even a complaint against Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid were lodged by two activists, Akshay Bikkad and Anand Dhond, terming the December 31 speeches of Mevani and Khalid as being provocative and inciting the people “to come out on the roads and retaliate”.

Maharashtra bandh:

MUMBAI : protests, road and rail traffic disruption, and sporadic violence, the massive shutdown across Maharashtra called by Dalit groups and parties, was called off. The shutdown generated tension in Mumbai and a number of towns and cities across Maharashtra, as the state marked its third day of seething tension between Dalits and upper castes, mainly Marathas. In Mumbai, supporters, allegedly of Dalit parties, tried to block trains, metro and buses, and forced shops in some areas to shut down at Worli. Photo by BL SONI

These incidents ignited communal tension in Pune which led to riot like situation on January 1, 2018, in which several people got injured and a large amount of property was vandalised.

However, seething Dalit groups were unconvinced by the government assurances and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a Dalit party headed by Prakash Ambedkar — the grandson of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar — called for a “peaceful Maharashtra bandh” on Wednesday (November 3) to express anger over the Pune incidents of January 1.

And, we all saw how people from the Dalit community took to the streets and the “peaceful bandh” turned into a violent one. Even the maximum city was brought to its knees.

The Conclusion:

MUMBAI : After a day of protests, road and rail traffic disruption, and sporadic violence, the massive shutdown across Maharashtra called by Dalit groups and parties, was called off. The shutdown generated tension in Mumbai and a number of towns and cities across Maharashtra, as the state marked its third day of seething tension between Dalits and upper castes, mainly Marathas. In Mumbai, supporters, allegedly of Dalit parties, tried to block trains, metro and buses, and forced shops in some areas to shut down at malwani Malad. Photo by BL SONI

The Bhima Koregaon violence were called “clashes” instead of being dubbed pre-planned attacks by right-wing upper caste groups, when footage from the ground clearly showed saffron-clad goons pelting Dalits with sticks and stones. Villagers alleged that right-wing groups in Pune were making inciting speeches against the Bhima-Koregaon celebrations, three to four days prior to the event.

The right-winged who incited the communal imbalance in society were and sidelined and Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid were made scapegoats for the entire incident. Mevani and Khalid were blamed for inciting communal tension between two communities.

Seeing all this the conclusion comes to this even in this century people blindly follow right-winged leaders, whose modus operand is just to create a communal imbalance in the society.

Amid allegations and counter allegations, it is still unclear who instigated the Bhima-Koregaon clash that sent ripples of violence and rioting across Maharashtra but the political reactions to the unfortunate incident point to a disturbing road ahead as the country hurtles towards the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Mumbai: Dalit groups protesting at Thane railway station during the Maharashtra Bandh on Wednesday following clashes between two groups in Bhima Koregaon near Pune, in Mumbai. PTI Photo (PTI1_3_2018_000096B)

A new way of spreading communal imbalance in the society cropped up as a video had gone viral where a 7-8-year-old kid is seen walking around with stones in hand, and was saying that he was carrying the stones to attack people.

The most bizarre and most pathetic part of the video was that how can a 7-8-year-old kid know about all this communal violence. Obviously it is very clear that the videographer or someone had taught him all this. Such people should be arrested and put behind bars. Due to such people, the younger generation is also involving in communal violence.

Screen grab of viral video of a child carrying stones

What example are we setting in front of the world where on one side India is being portrayed as developing country and on the other hand Indians are involved in caste-based violence.

Should we not move on? Things that happened in 1818 are done, we can’t go back and change it, but we can at least make an effort to not repeat it. Well, it is a disgrace to leaders and politicians who invoke communal imbalance in society. The guilty who bring such communal imbalance to society must be punished, no matter what caste or creed they belong to.