THE CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee has, in a statement issued on January 2, called upon all democratic and secular minded people in the state to extend their full support to the joint Maharashtra bandh call on January 3, the birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule.
The bandh has been called by various Ambedkarite and Left groups to denounce the January 1 attacks by casteist and communal forces on lakhs of dalits who had gathered at Bhima Koregaon in Pune district to pay homage to martyrs on the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in which the hated casteist Peshwa rule was defeated. Most of those who fought and won this battle were dalits.
It should be remembered that, although the dalits fought this battle as part of the forces of the British East India Company, the Peshwa rule had reached the worst levels of caste oppression and moral degeneration. The British showed their 'gratitude' by later banning the recruitment of dalits into their army for many years, until they required dalits as cannon fodder in the First World War.
On January 1, hoodlums engineered by the RSS and Shiv Sena, flaunting saffron flags, started attacking the dalits who had gathered there by stone-throwing and setting fire to cars. A 28-year old Maratha youth Rahul Fatangale from Pune was brutally killed in the stone throwing and many others were injured.
The bandh will also condemn the entire manner in which the BJP-led state government headed by Devendra Phadnavis handled the situation. It was nothing but reprehensible. No action whatsoever was taken when the tension was building up before New Year's Day, even though it was well aware that lakhs would gather to commemorate the 200th anniversary of this battle. The police force was woefully inadequate.
No one has been arrested so far for Rahul's killing or for the wanton violence that took place in and around Bhima Koregaon on January 1. It is clear that this violence has been deliberately engineered by right wing Hindutva forces to incite casteist and communal polarisation in the state.
It has now come to light that the ringleaders of the attack on the dalits are Milind Ekbote of the Samast Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of the Shivraj Pratishthan. They had camped in the area for a few days prior to January 1, had incited hatred among the residents, and had also instigated the violence.
The CPI(M) has demanded stringent action against all those responsible for the violence, adequate and immediate compensation by the state government to the family of the deceased, Rahul Fatangale and a thorough judicial inquiry into the entire series of incidents by a sitting judge of the Mumbai High Court.
The CPI(M) has called upon all its units in Maharashtra to actively support the bandh call. It has also urged the people to make it a peaceful and democratic protest.
Protests against Attacks on Dalits in Maharashtra
IN a statement issued on January 3, the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, All India Agricultural Workers Union, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union; National Campaign Council for Dalit Rights, National Confederation of Dalit Organisations and All India Dalit Rights Federation have called for country-wide protests against attacks on dalits in Maharashtra on January 1. They appealed all democratic and secular forces, irrespective of religion and caste, to support their call. They also urged the Maharashtra state government to take stringent action against all those who are responsible for these pre-planned attacks on dalits in Bhima Koregaon area and give adequate protection to dalits.
PROTEST AT MAHARASHTRA BHAVAN IN NEW DELHI
ON January 3, hundreds of activists belonging to Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch and Bahujan Communists Party along with other Dalit organisations held a protest at Maharashtra Bhavan in New Delhi, against the violent attack on dalit activists in Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district of Maharashtra. The protesters gathered at Maharashtra Bhavan on the Kasturba Gandhi Marg and raised slogans against the saffron forces that were instrumental in attacking the dalit gathering at Bhima Koregaon. They also raised slogans against the police and Pune district officials for the negligence and their proximity with the right-wing forces. According to the protesters, the attack was pre-planned and held in the full view of police and government officials.
Rampal of Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch and Niyogi of Bahujan Communist Party addressed the gathering and said tension has gripped Maharashtra a day after a person was killed; 25 vehicles were torched and more than 100 vehicles were damaged in stone pelting after people with saffron flags attacked dalits and their vehicles in Pune district. Lakhs of people gather on January 1 in Bhima Koregaon village every year to mark the anniversary of a battle in 1818, where British troops comprising mostly of Mahar (a Scheduled Caste) soldiers had defeated the Brahmin Peshwa-led Maratha army. Dalit communities consider the battle as a victory over Brahmin oppression under the Peshwas. An obelisk, with names of those killed, was installed by the British at the spot.
According to them the situation in Maharashtra is still grim and movements of dalits are under severe constraint due to attack on dalits. They have called upon all the dalit, backward and the forces of social justice to protest and raise their voice against the increasing attacks on dalit community. They also appealed for forging broader alliance to throw away the “Peshawai Dispensation” of Maharashtra government under the leadership of the BJP and RSS which is playing a tacit role in the attacks on dalit community.
The Demands of protests are as follows:-
1. Arrest of violence creator who belongs to saffron brigade
2. Case should be registered under sc/st act 2015 against the miscreants belonging to saffron outfit who were instrumental in attacking the dalits and pelting stone and burning of vehicles.
3. Release of innocent dalits activists who were arrested by Police to pacify the violence by right wing activists.