Police in riot gear guarded some areas in Mumbai on Tuesday as protests from a bicentenary celebration of a historic battle Dalits mark as victory of the oppressed over caste oppressors spilled into the streets of India's financial capital after news spread that a Dalit protestor, injured in violence over the event in Pune, has died of his injuries.
The Maharashtra government ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence as traffic came to a halt on the Eastern Express Highway near Mumbai, a protester tried to self-immolate, shops were shut, a journalist attacked, and the Central Railway suspended suburban services between Kurla and Vashi on its harbor corridor, according to the this report on NDTV.
Maharashtra: Violence between two groups during an event to mark 200 years of the Bhima Koregaon battle near Pune yesterday, vehicles set on fire pic.twitter.com/5RpITAK4qB— ANI (@ANI) January 2, 2018
Spoke to Maharashtra CM, demand that this matter should be inquired; action must be taken against the culprits so that such incidents don't recur: Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on violence between two groups during an event to mark 200 years of Bhima Koregaon battle near Pune pic.twitter.com/IFUTj752wr— ANI (@ANI) January 2, 2018
Dalits believe that the East India Company's victory in the Bhima-Koregaon battle of 1 Jan, 1818, with help from about 500 soldiers from the then untouchable Mahar community, over a 28,000-strong Maratha troop led by Peshwa Baji Rao II, is a symbol of their resistance against Brahminical tyranny. Dalit icon BR Ambedkar is said have visited the site in 1927.
At the event in Pune, Jignesh Mewani, a newly-elected Dalit MLA from Gujarat, vowed to fight the ruling BJP and its ideological parent RSS which he said were the "new Peshwas".
"We restricted them to double digits when they were aiming for 150 (seats) in Gujarat. We can repeat the magic in 2019 and restrict BJP to double digits if we come together. I am not interested in who wins, I am interested in BJP's defeat," said Mewani.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed for calm, even as Dalit protesters called for a state-wide bandh tomorrow.
A central pillar of the RSS/BJP's fascist vision for India is that Dalits should remain at the bottom of Indian society. Una, Rohith Vemula and now Bhima-Koregaon are potent symbols of the resistance.— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) January 2, 2018
More than 100 people have been detained and all bus services from Pune to Ahmednagar in Maharashtra have resumed, reported News18.
Organisers of the event in which Mewani spoke have alleged that the clashes were incited by members of right-wing groups after an argument between upper caste Marathas and Dalits in the village of Vadhu Budruk, around four km from Koregaon-Bhima on 29 December, according to the Hindu.