1 Dead in Bhima Koregaon Protest, Maha CM Assures Judicial Inquiry
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that his government will seek a judicial inquiry into the violence at Bhima Koregaon, which left one person dead and many more injured. Fadnavis also said a CID inquiry will be carried out and promised compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the deceased’s family.
Stone-pelting and violent clashes had marred an event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle near Pune. In the battle that took place in 1818, the British Army comprising Dalits had defeated upper-caste Peshwas.
Local pro-Dalit groups called for protests on 2 January against the violence, at Bhima Koregaon, Aurangabad, and other parts of Maharashtra. Violence was reported from Solapur and Mumbai’s suburbs on 2 January. ANI said that Mumbai’s local train service between Chembur and Govandi was affected because of the protests.
According to an Indian Express report, the man who died following the violence on 1 Jan has been identified as Rahul Phatangale from Sanaswadi. A murder case has been lodged at Shikrapur police station.
About 40 vehicles were also damaged in stone-pelting and 10 vehicles were set ablaze by a mob on the Pune-Ahmednagar highway on 1 January. Section 144 of the IPC, prohibiting unlawful assembly of people, was already imposed in the area.
Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani also attended the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ in Pune to commemorate the 'victory battle'. The event was also attended by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s mother, Radhika Vemula, and his brother Raja Vemula.
What Happened in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018?
Two incidents of violence occurred in Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018. First, in the afternoon when people were heading towards a war memorial in the village. This is when “individuals carrying saffron flags” reportedly pelted stones at cars headed to the memorial, reported Scroll.
“Stone-pelting started after an argument. During the violence, vehicles and a house in the vicinity was damaged,” a police officer deployed for managing the crowd at Bhima Koregaon said without elaborating.
He said the police blocked vehicular traffic on Pune-Ahmednagar highway for sometime following the incident. The traffic finally resumed in the evening. The situation in the village is now under control.
“More police personnel, including companies of the SRPF, were deployed to avoid any untoward incident,” the officer said.
Later in the day, more attacks were reported by journalists on the ground, stating that people carrying saffron flags and chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Bhawani’ clashed with people present near the Bhima Koregaon memorial.
Police added that mobile phone network in the area was blocked for some time to stop the circulation of inflammatory messages.
Strong Reactions Across the Political Spectrum
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that a request will be made to the Supreme Court for a judicial inquiry into the violence at Bhima Koregaon. He added that a CID inquiry will also be conducted into the death of the youth and promised Rs 10 lakh compensation to the victim's family.
Opposition party NCP’s chief Sharad Pawar condemned the violence, asking why despite it being the 200th anniversary of the event, with a larger number of attendees expected, there wasn’t more police protection at the event.
Union Minister of State for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale demanded police protection for Dalits in the wake of the violence.
Dalit groups visiting Bhima Koregaon village in vehicles were halted at Sanaswadi, a village near Koregaon. Stones were hurled at them. No police force was available for their protection.Ramdas Athawale, Union Minister
He appealed to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to deploy additional police force in Bhima Koregaon village and provide protection to members of the Dalit community. He also demanded an inquiry into the incident.
What Triggered the Violence?
Police told The Indian Express that an incident last week in Vadhu Budruk village could’ve led to the violence.
On 29 December, a board found near the tomb of Govind Gopal Mahar, a Dalit farmer, in the village said that it was the Mahars who had carried out the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj after he was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1689. But local Marathas believe that their ancestors had performed Sambhaji’s last rites.
They objected to the board which led to heated exchanges between members of the two communities, said the police.
The Battle of Bhima Koregaon
The Battle of Bhima Koregaon was fought on 1 January 1818. The British army, which had a large contingent of Dalit Mahars, had defeated the Peshwas.
Some Dalit leaders view it as a victory of oppressed classes over the upper-caste establishment of those times. However, some right-wing groups in Pune had expressed opposition to celebration of the ‘British’ victory.
A Peshwa was the equivalent of a modern Prime Minister in the Maratha Empire. Originally, the Peshwas served as subordinates to the Chhatrapati (the Maratha king), but later, they became the de facto leaders of the Marathas.
(With inputs from PTI)
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