The Bhima-Koregaon Protests: Violence Has Become Routine For Us

Posted by Rimli Bhattacharya in Politics
January 5, 2018

I was in Kolkata enjoying my last day of vacation and was to take an afternoon flight to Mumbai on January 3, 2018, when my friend, Mrs Lalita Dasgupta asked me to stay safe.

I was still in the holiday mood and was taken aback, given the fact that none of my other well-wishers (as they call so), bothered to inform me about the violence. Before I play the victim by feeling like no one cared for me, let us have a look what exactly went wrong back in Maharashtra, while I was in Kolkata enjoying my short vacation.

On January 1, 2018, a caucus of Dalits in Pune was on their way to celebrate an event to mark the 200 years of the Bhima-Koregaon battle when they were attacked, and their vehicles were damaged. The stone pelting started at the  Vadhu Budruk village, where several Dalits were present for their yearly tribute to the victory pillar.

It is alleged that some right-wing camp from the Saffron brigade started the riot. In the process, as a scuffle ensued between the Saffron brigade and the Dalits, more than 30 vehicles, including police vans, public vehicles as well as private transport were vandalized. It was also reported that a man was killed.

As per history, on January 1, 1818, the battle of Bhima-Koregaon was fought between the colonial rulers of the British East India Company and the Peshwa army. It was said that 500 Mahars, who were considered as untouchables, approached Peshwa Bajirao II to allow them an entry in their armed battalion to fight against the British leaders, but their request was turned down.

Out of rage, the Dalits (Mahars) approached the British sovereign and accessed an entry in the armed forces of the British battalion. It was those Mahars, who overpowered the Peshwas and ended the battle. It was also a victory against the caste-based bigotry and tyranny.

In 1851, a memorial pillar was erected by the British in honour of the Mahar soldiers who died at the Bhima-Koregaon battle. It was Sir Bhimarao Ambedkar who started the ritual of holding a tribute on January 1, every year since 1927, as a mark of respect to the Dalit martyrs.

Taking a look at today’s scenario and the current government, it is apparent that they are creating a division and is hell-bent on ruining this country. In my opinion, there is no strong opposition and this camp of the BJP and the RSS is running riot.

Jignesh Mevani, the newly elected Gujarat MLA, who is also a Dalit leader, was one of the speakers on that ill-fated day of the commemoration. He has point blank accused the current BJP government and the RSS to be behind this attack. In his interview with Scroll.in, when asked why he calls the BJP-RSS the new Peshwas, and what makes him declare our PM Narendra Modi’s reign the renewal of Brahmanism, he replied “The Peshwa regime was meant to protect the Brahminical system based on caste. The same is perpetrated by the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Hindu Rashtra means protecting and promoting the hegemony of upper castes. Modiji has perpetrated neo-liberal policies by favouring the greed of corporate houses and patronised Brahminical oppression. His Gujarat model is essentially a Brahminical model. Dalits, minorities, farmers, labourers have no place in this system. Their rights have no meaning for these Brahminical oppressors, just as they meant nothing to the Peshwas. Ordinary people are being attacked in the name of the cow, ghar wapsi and love jihad. Every time there is violence against Dalits, Modiji does nothing but shed crocodile tears while openly patronising the oppressors. What else would you call them if not the new Peshwas?”

He also clarified in his interview, that he has formed Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch and he will fight out both Brahmanism and capitalism. With news of farmer’s suicide, corporate vandalism, economic inflation, etc. he also says that not only he will fight out social issues, but will also not remain a silent spectator for the Dalits. As he is based out of Gujarat, he will first make a change in his state and then bring the change in the rest of the country. He also said that the BJP-RSS government is scared of Dalit averment.

Maharashtra observed a bandh on January 3, 2018, but the eternal question remains – Who is behind all this violence? I have lived in Mumbai since 1997, and haven’t witnessed such an outbreak of violence before. If one goes into the grass root levels, it is apparent that several Hindu organizations are trying to create communal tensions across the country, and now Maharashtra isn’t spared either.

Here we spoke on the attack on Dalits, but ever since this government has come to power, we are only witnessing violence, lynching, murders of journalists, killing in the name of ‘love jihad’ and are yet to witness several more incidents, until we fight out and throw them out of power. Our Constitution speaks of secularism, but our government is in the process of changing our constitutional rights.

Though the Chief Minister of Maharashtra has ordered a detailed investigation, we all know it will be just an eyewash. There will be arrests, there will be court trials but will there be an end to this violence?

This hate game is just to create a division between us Indians. Maybe in the name of love jihad, maybe by killing a journalist or maybe by stone pelting the Dalits who went to pay their tribute to the brave martyrs. The division is no longer restrained between the religious sector – Hindu, Muslim or Christian but now it is creating a division in the name of the caste system.

As an Indian, I want to ask a question to our honourable Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi: is this what he wanted to see when he promised “Achhe Din”? What has he achieved?

Unfortunately, if we do not act, we are certainly going to make this country a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and tolerate the violence which is on an upward trend. We are in danger of going back to the British colonial era where we were nothing but slaves. So now we are the same, slaves to this saffron brigade, the Sanghi parivar, the hate mongers and criminals in the name of politicians who are in power.

The Bhima–Koregaon attack and the protest is just another example of where this country is heading. We are yet to witness the worst crimes. So it’s our calling now – Shall we sit and witness the downfall of our country where our freedom fighters lost their lives to protect us or shall we at least raise our voices? We are surviving, but our future generations, what are they witnessing? What is their future?

Hate doesn’t work in the long run. It is only by the power of love, that the world will know peace and that is going to happen only if we, the masses, unite and fight it out together.

Let’s speak one religion, let’s stop division in the name of caste. Wish peace, good health and kinder times for all. Be done with hate. It’s just beginning of the new year – take a pledge to stop the violence. Fight out the saffron brigade. Make this nation a better place.