Bhima Koregaon: the Politics behind the Outbreak

Image Courtesy: NDTV                                                                              People carried processions on 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon, and pelted stones at vehicles on one of Mumbai’s arterial highways.

Pune, January 04: Bhima Koregaon, a village 30 kilometres north-east of Pune, witnessed celebration of the 200th anniversary of the battle between British forces, including Mahar troops, and the Peshwa army. However, clashes broke out in villages around Bhima Koregaon. The violence occurred in the wake of the death of a 30-year-old Maratha youth and injuries caused to several people. The Dalit community began protesting in cities of Mumbai, Pune and nine other districts across Maharashtra. On January 3, they demanded a statewide bandh. Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra ordered a judicial probe by “a sitting judge” into the matter.

He said, “Every year, about 15,000 people assemble at the memorial. But this year the crowd was 3.5 lakh strong. Six battalions of police force were deployed, four of them placed at strategic points. As a result, despite attempts to trigger violence and riots, it was immediately curbed and major incident averted.”

What initiated as a caste based violence, later progressed into political firestorm.

Rahul Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) had envisioned the fact that Dalits “remain at the bottom” of the society.

He took to Twitter, “A central pillar of the RSS/BJP’s fascist vision for India is that Dalits should remain at the bottom of Indian society. Una, Rohith Vemula and now Bhima-Koregaon are potent symbols of the resistance.”

Denying these allegations, BJP sources said that the party was “concerned” about the Dalits. The reason being Dalit leaders such as Jignesh Mevani, who recently won the election in Gujarat, have marked their presence in Bhima Koregaon.

It is worth noting that the political aggression also echoed at the state and Centre level. Mohan Prakash, General Secretary in charge of Maharashtra, All India Congress Committee claimed, “Wherever the BJP is in power, its supporters and RSS execute such actions when events related to Dalit pride are organised”.

The Shiva Sena accused the current government of not having the knowledge about mischief mongers living in the state. “The state is bearing the brunt of the BJP having control of the Home department and politics in the police department.,” it alleged.

Meanwhile, Prakash Ambedkar, President of Bharatiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh reportedly said that Hindutva outfits were behind the Bhima Koregaon attacks.

Police has booked two local Hindu right-wing leaders- Milind Ekbote of Hindu Ekta Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratisthan for inciting violence. Complaints have also been filed against Jignesh Mevani, Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA and Umar Khalid, Jawaharlal Nehru University student for instigating the crowd. Both of them were invited at the celebration of Bhima Koregaon battle.

It will be interesting to see the amount of truth that these allegations hold. On one hand, it is possible that the right-wing groups were the reason behind this violence. On the other hand, it is strange to accept the fact that BJP would instigate such a division in the society. This contrasts its policy of ‘one India.” However, it will be beneficial for its rivals, as this will affect the Hindu vote bank of BJP immensely.

Feedback welcome!