Violent clashes erupted in Maharashtra. Widespread unrest engulfed the entire state. The rioters were running berserk. Vehicles were set ablaze, public property was damaged beyond repair, and above everything else, normal life was crippled.
It all started on new year’s day, when countless people from the Dalit community had gathered at Bhima-Koregaon to mark the bicentenary of the battle between the British and the Peshwas (the Anglo-Maratha War), in which the Dalits sided with the British Raj. With countless people gathering at a point, the state government needed to take all precautionary measures. Security forces should have been deployed in time. The extent of damage incurred could have been minimized, had the state government taken adequate precautionary measures beforehand. But sadly, the government’s inability to tackle the situation resulted in widespread chaos and disorder.
Well, I guess all of us have read countless news stories and reports on the ever-so-serious problem of public unrest in India. The chain of events is quite common whenever unrests or riots breakout. The riots are ignited by people who pose a serious threat to public order and peace. The riots then spread across an entire region, and end up consuming the lives of innocent people. National plans are formulated, inquiries are conducted, and reports are submitted, but the cycle of unrest keeps moving relentlessly – completely untouched by all the efforts that are made to curtail it.
I believe that the bicentenary commemoration, and the corresponding riots along with the violent protests are nothing but a manipulation of the various socio-political scenarios. On one hand, the Dalits view it as a landmark event, where the lower-caste Mahars fought alongside the company forces against a formidable Peshwa army. On the other hand, several right-wing historians view it as a battle between our erstwhile colonial masters, and the local people. Each year, Bhima-Koregaon is visited by many people from the Dalit community, who pay their respect to the soldiers who were killed during the battle. It is also an event that reaffirms their identity as Dalits. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar also visited the spot back in the 1920s.
Dalits all across the country are coming together. During the bicentenary celebrations, the president of the Bhim Army, Vinay Ratan Singh, was present along with several other prominent leaders.
In my opinion, the rising unrest among several marginalized communities in India is being fuelled because of unfulfilled aspirations and discrimination. The number of job opportunities created is far less than the number of aspirants. Consequently, the communities are coming together in the hope that collective bargaining will yield desired results. I think the quota system has failed miserably to solve the problem of unemployment in the country. What we require today is a channelized focus on growth, wherein all communities have an equal say and an equal right to opportunities.