Home Global Village Indian caste war continues as Dalits are illegally detained

Indian caste war continues as Dalits are illegally detained

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Activists in India say hundreds of Dalits (untouchables) have been “illegally detained” and many others are in hiding, as police in Maharashtra state moved to arrest members of the community who took part in mass protests. The allegations if true highlight the ongoing oppression at the hands of the state as well as non-state actors of Indian Dalits.

Last week, Dalits from across the state took to the streets to protest against a January 1st attack on the community, during the 200th-anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon. In that battle, in 1818, lower-caste Dalits sided with British colonial forces to defeat upper-caste rulers.

On Wednesday, Indian media reports quoted police as saying they had arrested 43 people, including three minors, in connection with the violence in Bhima-Koregaon in Pune district and ensuing protests across the state.

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.

According to Al Jazeera, Dalit organisations and activists assert that the number of those who had been arrested exceeded 100, with 16 children among those detained. Prakash Ambedkar, an activist and grandson of Bhimrao Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution and a Dalit icon, said he fears thousands of Dalits are being “illegally detained” in Maharashtra.

“The combing operation that is being done now by the state police is not allowed under the law. A combing operation of this kind can only be done when you have declared the region as a ‘disturbed area’. That’s not the case in Mumbai. So this is an illegal act,” Ambedkar told Al Jazeera.

Read more: Hindutva media paints Dalits as “Pakistanis” as Caste violence increases

“The masses will have to decide whether they want this kind of lawlessness in the country or they want rule of law,” he added. A case has also 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. Two outfits — Samast Hindu Morcha and Shiv Pratishthan — have been booked for inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district on Monday.

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.

The Hindu outfits had stormed the event organised by the Dalits to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle. 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.

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”.

Read more: Union Minister calls Dalits to renounce Hinduism

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.

A photograph went viral on social media with the claim that it was representative of a Dalit protest. In the photo, bike-borne cadres can be seen raising a flag, which, it is claimed, is the national flag of Pakistan

After the violence started, Indian Hindutva propaganda cells on social media began actively spreading fake news in the form of photos on the web and other areas in order to defame Dalits fighting back against higher caste violence in Koregaon.

A photograph went viral on social media with the claim that it was representative of a Dalit protest. In the photo, bike-borne cadres can be seen raising a flag, which, it is claimed, is the national flag of Pakistan. The caption accompanying the photograph says ‘Dalit Andolan, Jhanda Pakistani, Yehi hai asli kahani’ (Dalit protest, Pakistani flag, this is the real story). The image with the caption has been shared widely on social media across various platforms.

A case has also 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 narrative used by the Hindutva groups against the Dalits draws a parallel with those, which it uses against its rivals such as the leftist students at the JNU. This is evident in the BJP’s strategy of depicting every rival as a threat to national security, an implicit supporter of Pakistan, backer of the Kashmiri liberation movement and having a soft corner for militants and Naxalites.

Read more: 6 face death over honor killing: “Love Jihad” against Dalits?

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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