On 11 July 1997, the Maharashtra State Reserve Police Force under Sub-Inspector Manohar Kadam, started firing on unarmed Ambedkarite protesters in Ramabai Nagar. In the police firing, 10 Ambedkarite were massacred. Their names are as follows:
(1) Sukhdev Kapadne (2) Sanjay Nikam (3) Bablu Verma (4) Anil Garud (5) Kishore Kataranwar (6) Sanjay Kamble (7) Vilas Dhodke (8) Mangesh Shivsarne (9) Aman Dhanawade (10) Kauslya Pathare.
State Reserve Police Force arresting protester
Nearly 26 others were wounded in this police firing.
Early on the morning of 11 July 1997, residents of Ramabai Nagar (Ghatkopar) colony found out the vandalisation and desecration of the statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The news spread like wild fire and people started to gather to protest against this unconstitutional and unlawful acts of vandalisation. A garland of footwear was placed across the neck of the statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Residents of Ramabai Nagar Colony lodged a police complaint in the Pant Nagar Police Station. Ghatkopar Highway was blocked due to the thousands of protesters. Around 7 AM, the whole stretch of Ghatkopar Highway passing through Ramabai Nagar was blocked.
Maharashtra State Reserve State Police was dispatched to control the protesters in Ramabai Nagar. It was led by Sub-Inspector Manohar Kadam. He ordered to open fire on the protest gathering. The exact distance between the desecrated statue and people gathered for protest was 200 meters. In this police firing, 10 people were killed and 26 people were injured. Ramdas Athavale (Republican Party of India) visited the spot to offer solidarity and condolences to the people. The mob resisted the entry of Ramdas Athavale and he was assaulted by the uncontrollable mob.
Ramdas Athavale chased by the protesters
The protesters were in no position to listen to anybody due to the act of terror inflicted upon them by the State Machinery. Around 11 am, a bus was torched by the crowd. The Local beat no 5 Police station was also torched. The police continued lathi charge and used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Later on, a very noted Ambedkarite activist, poet, artist “Vilas Ghogre” committed suicide in protest against the act of terror by the State Machinery.
Maharashtra was ruled by the coalition of Shiv Sena – BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party). The defence for opening fire was fabricated by the ruling political class as well as the State Reserve Police personnel. Setting a “LPG Tanker” ablaze by the protestors was the reason cited to open fire on the unarmed protesters. In the next elections, Shiv Sena – BJP lost its mandate and Congress- Nationalist Congress came to power. In the election mandate of Congress-Nationalist Congress, to remove and impeach “Manohar Kadam” was one of the agenda.
Picture of Ambedkarite activist, poet and artist, Vilas Ghogre
Gundewar Commission was appointed by the Government of Maharashtra in November 1997. Later in 1999, Gundewar Commission submitted its report on the “Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar Massacre” to the State Government. It took nearly two years from the massacre to file a complaint against Sub-Inspector Manohar Kadam in the sessions court. Due to heavy and continuous protests by various Ambedkarites organizations, on 20 December 2002, Manohar Kadam was arrested.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue in Ramabai Nagar, Ghatkopar (Mumbai)
Later, the Government appointed a Fast Track Court and the case came to an end on 16 March 2009. But due to some extraordinary circumstances, the final hearing was tabled on 9 April 2009 and Sub-Inspector Manohar Kadam was convicted and sentenced to Life Imprisonment. On April 2011, the protesters who had been arrested for setting the bus on fire were acquitted, with the court finding that they had not been present during the incident.
Entrance to Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar, Ghatkopar (Mumbai )
Amar Khade is a self-employed engineer by profession and an anti-caste activist by choice.
Pictures Source: Internet/Facebook