Violence breaks out when celebrations were on to mark 200 years of a battle between Mahar soldiers and Peshwas
Violence erupted in several parts of Maharashtra following the death of a 30-year old who was hit with stones when he was returning from office on Monday after a fight broke out between Marathas and Dalits in villages around Bhima Koregaon near Pune.
Clashes erupted on Monday when a large gathering of people near Pune were celebrating 200 years of the 1818 British battle at the ‘Jaystambh’ (victory memorial) in Perne village. A battalion of British East India company consisting of Mahar (Dalit) soldiers defeated the Peshwas, symbolising the defeat of upper caste Brahmins.
The event was marred by conflict between the commemorating group and those opposed to the event. Top Dalit leaders from Maharashtra, Gujarat's new Dalit face Jignesh Mewani, AIMPLB member Maulana Azhari and activist Umar Khalid were present at the celebrations.
Tuesday saw violent protests by Dalits across Maharashtra.
As many as 25 vehicles were torched by those opposed to the gathering. Fifty vehicles were damaged due to stone pelting. As per Times of India report, 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.
Cases were registered in Pune against Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, who head the Hindu Ekta Aghadi and Shivraj Pratishthan for attempt to murder, rioting and sections of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. The two organisations had opposed the celebration of "British victory" in the battle.
Chief Minister 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. This announcements failed to pacify the Dalit leaders, with Prakash Ambedkar calling for a Maharashtra bandh on Wednesday.
According to state police, protests were also held in Kolhapur, Parbhani, Latur, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Hingoli, Kolhapur, Nanded and Thane. Mumbai Police detained several hundred people over different locations for the violence.
“Elaborate arrangements have been made to keep the situation under control in view of the bandh call. Extra forces have been kept on standby. Some areas have been identified where Internet services could be suspended so that people don’t spread rumours on social media,” Maharashtra DGP Satish Mathur was quoted as saying,
Acclaimed writer and founder member, Dalit Panthers, Arjun Dangle, blamed sections of the media for misleading people by putting the blame of violence on Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and JNU student Umar Khalid.
“What have they got to do with it? What is the relation between Bhima Koregaon and Jignesh and Khalid,” he asked.
“We have been going every year for celebrations, no violence happened. After BJP came to power things are becoming worse. Why is it doing this? We supported Modi earlier, now everyone is against him. There is unemployment and caste based violence,” he added.
Calls to Dalit leader and founder member of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, Prakash Ambedkar who has called for Maharashtra bandh today went unanswered.
Due to partial bandh, Mumbai remained tense with heavy police deployment. Sporadic cases of arson and rail and rasta roko have been reported across Mumbai. The eastern express highway is blocked. As many as 700 interstate buses are affected.
Shops in Dadar and Parel areas are shut. Mumbai suburban trains too have been affected and running late. While schools remain open, school buses stayed off roads. Mumbai Dabbawalas are also participating in the bandh.