While Dalits in Maharashtra organised a commemoration of the 200 th anniversary of Bhima Koregaon battle on January 1, which symbolises the victory of Mahar Dalits over upper-caste Peshwas, right-wing activists attacked the participants of the event.
Reportedly, in the last two days, one person was killed, seven were injured including four policemen, and over 200 buses and 100 cars damaged due to the attacks in Pune and Mumbai by the groups.
Today, a state-wide bandh is underway in Maharashtra, after a call given by Dalit leaders in protest against the violence that engulfed the state for the last two days. CPI(M) and other left parties have extended their support to the bandh while Shiv Sena party members have alleged a “conspiracy” behind the violence.
Pune police filed a case against Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, founders of the right-wing groups Hindu Ekta Aghadi and Shivraj Pratishthan Hindustan respectively along with others under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, Arms Act, S.307 (attempt to murder) of IPC and rioting. Members of these Hindutva organisations have reportedly been the forerunners of the recent violence against Dalits in the state.
Plotted violence? Role of Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide
Three days before the Bhima Koregaon anniversary, on December 29, Ekbote and Bhide along with the members of their groups had desecrated the Samadhi of Dalit icon Govind Gaikwad in Wadhu village of Pune district. Following this, while the celebrations at the Bhima Koregaon was taking place, Hindutva groups led a procession in the village causing violent clashes. Later on, right-wing groups have created riot-like situation in parts of the state.
This is not the first time that the Ekbote-Bhide duo are accused of leading riots in the name of Hindutva. Mumbai Mirror has reported that 56-year old Milind Ekbote, former BJP corporator of Pune is known for his communal activities. His organization Hindu Ekta Aghadi has been at the forefront of anti- Valentine’s day protests in the state.
Sambhaji Bhinde, 85, formerly an RSS pracharak, had floated his own organization Shivraj Pratishthan Hindustan in the 1980s. Prime Minister Narendra Modi once called Bhide his “Guruji” while campaigning for 2014 general elections.
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar said that the Maharashtra government “failed” in controlling the violence.