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Bhima Koregaon Clashes: Parts Of Mumbai Paralysed Due To Dalit Protests

Bhima Koregaon Clashes: Parts Of Mumbai Paralysed Due To Dalit Protests

Activist and grandson of BR Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar and several Dalit organisations have given call for a Maharashtra bandh tomorrow

Bhima Koregaon

Various images of violence in Bhima Koregaon on January 1. Courtesy: ANI


Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that he has ordered a CID enquiry and will set up a  commission headed by a sitting judge of the Bombay High Court to investigate the Bhima Koregaon violence. The violence in Pune on January 1 left one person dead and several injured as stone-pelting and violent clashes marred an event attended by the Dalit community to the mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle near Pune.



While chief minister Fadnavis appreciated Pune city police for taking adequate measures in controlling the mob, news reports point out that about 40 vehicles were damaged in the stone-pelting incident and 10 vehicles were set on fire on the Pune-Ahmednagar highway on the first day of the new year. The administration has invoked Section 144 of the IPC, prohibiting unlawful assembly of people in several parts of Pune.


The impact of the Pune violence was felt in Mumbai on Tuesday morning as several Dalit organisations took to the streets on the Eastern express highway staging a rasta roko at the Amar Mahal junction in Chembur. Protesters damaged vehicles and several shopkeepers complained that they were forced to shut down their shutters. Several schools also shut down in Chembur, Mulund area as a precautionary measure.


While Mumbai Police tweeted at 1:46 pm assuring the citizens that traffic was moving on the Eastern express highway, pictures and videos on Twitter showed that the situation was far from normal



There were several desperate messages to Mumbai Police with citizens asking the cops to rescue senior citizens stuck in the traffic for hours.



Mumbai Police later put out a tweet advising vehicle owners on diversions to be taken as the traffic situation slowly got out of control with protestors refusing to clear the highway.



Meanwhile, activist and grandson of BR Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar and several Dalit organisations have given call for a Maharashtra bandh tomorrow.


What Happened At Bhima Koregaon?


While the actual violence took place on Monday, January 1, the seeds were sown last Friday on December 29. About 5 kms from Bhima Koregaon, in a village called Vadhu Budruk village, there was disturbance near the tomb of Govind Gopal Mahar, who hailed from the Dalit community. According to historical accounts disputed by the Marathas and trusted by the Dalits, Govind Gopal Mahar defied the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Maratha King Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. Unknown people had placed a board near the tomb that hailed Mahar’s bravery which became a bone of contention between the two communities.


The Indian Express reports that Dalit activists filed several complaints against the local Marathas resulting in 49 persons from the village charged under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.


But it did not stop there and the violence moved to Bhima Koregaon where lakhs of Dalits had gathered from across the state and other parts of the country to commemmorate the 200th anniversary of the epic battle at the Koregaon Ranstambh or the victory pillar. Dalit community leaders have accused right wing upper-caste organisations of sending mobs to attack their peaceful annual meet and several groups were stoned in sporadic incidents of violence.



Which Leaders Attended The Bhima Koregaon Bicentenary Celebration?


According to Mumbai Mirror, the event saw an interesting mix of political leaders and activists on the stage. ” Speakers at the event included Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of BR Ambedkar, activist Umar Khalid from JNU, All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Maulana Abdul Azhari, and Jignesh Mewani. the newly elected Dalit MLA from Gujarat. Mewani exhorted all “pro-poor” parties to come together and fight the ruling combine of BJP-RSS, which, according to him, represented the ‘new Peshwas’ or Manuwadi,” reported the Mumbai Mirror.



What We Know About The Bhima Koregaon Battle


500 soldiers of the untouchable Mahar community fought with the British to defeat the over 28,000 strong army of Peshwa Bajirao II on January 1, 1818. The Peshwas hoping to attack Pune sent 2,000 soldiers to fight the British force of 800 soldiers stationed in Koregaon. Led by Captain Francis Staunton with 500-600 Mahar soldiers, the British troops defended their position for 12 hours. While neither side won the battle decisively, the Marathas withdrew after suffering heavy casualties due to  Mahar soldiers determined to teach the Peshwas a lesson. The Dalit activists have considered the battle as a heroic episode in history that signifies their victory over the upper caste Peshwas.


The Mahars insulted by the Peshwas refusal to their offer to serve in their army chose to fight with the East India Company troops. But it was only on January 1, 1927 that a formal victory pillar was raised to commemorate the battle. This was made possible as Babasaheb Amedkar visited the site and established it as part of the Dalit tradition to celebrate the day ever since.




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A Staff Writer

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