What is Bhima Koregaon?
A village on the banks of koregaon river, 40km from pune, Bhima Koregaon has been a special place for people belonging to backward castes. A 3,000-strong force led by Peshwa Baji Rao II intended to attack Pune which was held by the British. Led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops which largely comprised of Mahars, defended their position for nearly 12 hours. Mahars who were subjected to extreme levels of suppression both socially and economically at the time, fought it like their freedom movement. In remembrance of their brave efforts in the battle, every year on 1st January, thousands of people gather together at the war memorial and hold a meeting to celebrate. Being 200th anniversary, this time more crowds were expected.
Who is Govind Mahar?
A wrestler by profession, Govind Mahar Gaikwad(Dalit) had performed the last rites of the 31-year old Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, who was assassinated in 1689. Sambhaji Maharaj was killed in the war between Marathas and Mughals, betrayed by his own Peshwa ministers. Sambhaji had believed to have promoted education among Shudras and Dalits while Peshwa Brahmins opposed it, which seemed to have angered the only educated class of the era. His body was cut into pieces and was thrown in the river, while pieces were collected by two villages along the river and were cremated. To this day Sambhaji’s tombs in those two villages are visited by people every once in a while. Gaikwad being a Dalit is one of those who defied Mughals’ orders and cremated Sambhaji Maharaj, and for that he still remains as an icon of Dalit pride. In a nearby village Gaikwad’s tomb lies in the same compound of Sambhaji.
What is connection between Bhima Koregaon and Govind Mahar?
All the bahujan people who visit Bhima Koregaon also visit the tomb of Govind Mahar Gaikwad while passing by, only to express the gratitude for cremating their beloved king who encouraged them to get educated. Every year on january 1st a good flak of crowds visit these tombs along with Bhima Koregaon memorial. Again more crowds were expected this year at this place too.
"EVENTS AS THEY HAPPENED": (in chronological order)
- Many Bahujan organizations have been planning a grand celebration since as early as an year. While BAMCEF, BSP, BAI and other organizations planned to hold their meetings at the memorial, Ramdas athavle and Prakash ambedkar planned to hold a meeting at Shanivar Wada too.
- Peshwa organizations issued warnings against the meeting at Shanivarwada a week before the event.
- On 29th of December, a group of miscreants have defiled a worn nameplate at the site and dismantled the roof of the tomb. (a video of which was submitted to police as reported). This move could have already created violence had it not been a Dalit icon. But evidently it was peaceful environment till 1st of January.
- In the wake of the incident, government could take remedies and police had two days to prepare for the main event.
- On 31st December A 'Yalgar Parishad' was held in the historic Shaniwarvada area of Pune, which was attended by several prominent personalities, including newly-elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid, Radhika Vemula, Soni Sori, Vinay Ratan Singh, Prashant Dontha and others.
- On 1st of January BAMCEF created a replica of the memorial which is at least 1 km away from the original and held a meeting there itself, which went smooth as reported. Other organizations seemed to have visited the original memorial. Over all crowd could be estimated from all over India to be around 8 lakhs. The highway was packed for a stretch of 6km, people everywhere and vehicles were parked everywhere. All mobile signals were jammed, as if it was instructed before water supply was cut.
- Despite tight security, some groups waving saffron flags reportedly pelted stones at the gathering near Bhima Koregaon, leading to the death of a 28-year old youth from Nanded and Rahul Fatangale. Both were activists of BAMCEF belonging backward communities.
- As it is evident from the videos circulated in social media, police force was doing the role bystanders as stones were pelted and vehicles were burned. Even the fire-brigade vehicles which have arrived to put off the flames were damaged and burned. One can watch the videos on social media for verification.
- As alleged by the activists, police were unequipped and unprepared, never even tried to stop the stone pelting miscreants. Instead, they were controlling the Dalit crowds. Police neither used tear gas nor fired in air to disperse crowds. Whether it’s clearly either an ill preparation by the government or a planned support for the anti-dalit brigade, only time will tell. By the end of the day more than 50 vehicles were damaged and some of them were burned. 2 Dalits died and many were injured. “Very simple thought, if all those 8 lakhs of Dalits wanted to vandalise, they could have destroyed the entire area around 10kms. Instead, they chose to protest later” claimed by an activist.
- By 2nd January news spread all over. Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar and Congress Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil blamed the state government for lapses resulting in the previous day's violence and appealed for peace and calm among all communities. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hurriedly announced a judicial probe by a "sitting judge" of Bombay High Court, a CID investigation into the violence and compensation of Rs 1 million for the victim's family.
- By 2nd noon, all major Maratha groups and Dalit groups all over Maharashtra started reacting by vandalizing, while BAMCEF and other organizations silently protested on highways, railway tracks and at Pune. The police in Pune's Pimpri suburb lodged a complaint against Shivjagar Pratisthan President Sambhaji Bhide Guruji and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti President Milind Ekbote.
- Two activists from pune, namely Akshay Bikkad and Anand Dhond, lodged complaints with the Pune police on Wednesday (Jan 3) terming the December 31 speeches of Mevani and Khalid as being provocative and inciting the people "to come out on the roads and retaliate" which resulted in even more vandalism.
- Meanwhile, a surging tide of violence from both parties engulfed large parts of Maharashtra with over 100 buses of MSRTC damaged in 31 districts, besides scores of private buses, trucks, vehicles and bikes.
- The country's commercial capital Mumbai was partially paralyzed and millions were stranded on roads and railway stations as Dalit groups indulged in road and rail blockages, processions and protest demonstrations on Tuesday.
- This standstill evokes huge response in Mumbai and other parts of the state due to rail and road blockages and protest marches, with the impact severe in the rural areas of the state.
- The shutdown and its background echoes in parliament with the Opposition parties like the Congress and others attacking the BJP-led government and demanding a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- On 3rd January afternoon strike was called off by Dalit groups and by late evening life resumed in pune and mumbai.
Now questions we should ask ourselves are
1. Who started the riots?
2. What caused the riots?
3. Damages were on both sides or one side?
4. Who got benefited?
5. What were the benefits?
The Views expressed in the article are not of criticbrain but competely of the author.
Mr.L is a Hyderabad based IIT graduate, rational thinker, political analyst, who took on a mission to make people understand the reality.
Author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org