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Hindu organizations booked for anti-Dalit violence

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News Analysis |

A case has been registered against two right-wing Hindu organisations in connection with the Koregaon Bhima violence wherein one person was killed and several vehicles were torched. The latest violence highlights the continuing suppression of Dalits by higher caste Hindus.

Two outfits — Samast Hindu Morcha and Shiv Pratishthan — have been booked for inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district on Monday. The Hindu outfits had stormed the event organised by the Dalits to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle.

In December, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati threatened to convert en masse with millions of Dalits to Buddhism in order to protest the grotesque treatment of her caste.

In the clashes between the two groups, more than 30 vehicles, including buses, police vans and private vehicles, were torched or damaged and one youth, Rahul Fatangale, 28, lost his life. The violence sparked off protests in various parts of Maharashtra, including in Mumbai where protesters staged a rail roko (obstruction) in suburban Chembur.

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Dalit groups have called for Maharashtra bandh (close) on Wednesday to protest the state government’s “failure” to stop the violence. An event marking the 200th anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle in Pune yesterday ended on a bad note after riots broke out at a Dalit rally, killing at least one person.

Reports have it that some local groups in Pune had expressed opposition to celebration of the “British victory”. Violence broke out after a local group got into an argument with a crowd on its way to the Koregaon Bhima battle memorial in Shiroor tehsil.

The Koregaon Bhima battle (aka Bhima Koregaon battle) was fought between the British East India Company and the Peshwa army at Koregaon Bhima on January 1st, 1818. In it, the British faction had defeated the Peshwa.

The suicide of Dalit Ph.D. scholar Rohit Vemula over caste-based discrimination in Indian universities unleashed protests and outrage from across India.

Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory as soldiers from the Mahar community — then considered Untouchables — were part of the East India Company’s forces. However, some local groups opposed the celebration as it was for the “British victory”.

Earlier in the day, Dalit leader and independent MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mevani visited the war memorial in the village. Mevani had also attended Elgaar Parishad held in Pune to commemorate the battle. Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale demanded police protection for Dalits in the wake of the violence.

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Even as the police struggled to control violence at the Koregaon Bhima and Perne phata, there had been tension at the nearby village of Vadu where two groups had come face to face over vandalisation of a nameplate over the samadhi of Govind Gaikwad. Gaikwad had conducted the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji. Following this, police booked 49 people from the village. To diffuse the situation, village representatives of both groups met over the issue with police trying to mediate between them.

An event marking the 200th anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle in Pune yesterday ended on a bad note after riots broke out at a Dalit rally, killing at least one person.

The Dalits, also known as the untouchables, are the lowest caste in the Hindu Varna system. The term Dalit, which means “oppressed” in Sanskrit, was coined by the great Dalit figure Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in the 20th century. It is noteworthy to mention that Hindutva or Hindu fundamentalism was initiated by high caste Hindus in response to an assertion of rights by lower caste Hindus. This is why many critics, mainly Dalit academics, term Hindutva to be an engine of Brahminist supremacy.

With the ascendancy of Hindutva through the BJP, the scheduled castes known as Dalits have witnessed a storm of violence by Saffron terrorists who mostly belong to the upper castes. Last year, violence broke out during the procession of Rajput warrior-king Maharana Pratap in Saharanpur over loud music.

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In the violence one man was killed, 16 were injured and 25 Dalit houses were burned. The incident was connected to the ruling BJP MP from Saharanpur Raghav Lakhanpal. Before that, the public brutal beating of several Dalits by Cow Vigilantes in Una during the month of July 2016 unleashed massive Dalit protest movements. Several other cases of violence like lynching, rape, arson etc. against Dalits is commonplace throughout India.

A case has been registered against two right-wing Hindu organisations in connection with the Koregaon Bhima violence wherein one person was killed and several vehicles were torched.

The recent Hindutva domination of India has been met up with a backlash from the Dalit community. The Una incident unleashed a massive 10-day march from Ahmedabad to Una that challenged the ascendancy of the local Hindutva powers. Previously, the suicide of Dalit Ph.D. scholar Rohit Vemula over caste-based discrimination in Indian universities unleashed protests and outrage from across India and gained widespread media attention.

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In December, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati threatened to convert en masse with millions of Dalits to Buddhism in order to protest the grotesque treatment of her caste. However, it seems that with increasing anti-Dalit violence that her words have not been taken seriously.


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