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Bhima Koregaon: Justice for victims of casteist attack
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bhima protest

Akash Sable 

  

Summary: Bhima Koregaon is a historical site, it has witnessed nearly 200 years ago in 1818 on the very first day of the year, a huge Peshwa force defeated by a small troop of British army constituting of a majority of soldiers from the Mahar community. This history has been memorialized through celebrations every year by its significance in expressing the strength of anti-caste resistance. This year also saw huge spontaneous celebrations at Bhima Koregaon on 1st of January but was violated by a ruthless casteist attack. Many thousands, mostly belonging to scheduled caste, also known as Dalits and tribals, were injured and their vehicles were burned and attacked. On 3rd of January 2018, all of Maharashtra experienced the effects of a shutdown called upon by Advocate Prakash Ambedkar to oppose these attacks. In spite of this and many other protests, justice to Bhima Koregaon casteist attack is long pending. We have been continuously working with the victims of these attacks. We are going to hold a protest demanding justice for them, the details of which are given below.

bhima protest

  (workshop damaged during the violence)

Introduction

 

In Ambedkarite ideology constructing and propagating alternative culture is central to its framework. Cultural celebrations are not just a part of identity politics but are equally part of a struggle for existence. Celebrations at Bhima Koregaon are a real demonstration of this alternate cultural construct. It is for this reason that the attack on the masses at Bhima Koregaon on 1st January are of a different nature and more threatening compared to daily atrocities faced by schedule castes all over India.

 

Below is a short background including historical importance of the Bhima Koregaon battle followed by a short description of what actually happened on 1st January 2018 and at the end, a note about the proposed protest to be conducted at Collector office, Pune by the organisation ‘Republican Bharat’.

 

Background 

 

Brahmins have tried their level best to portray Peshwa rule positively but the bitter reality betrays this portrayal. Peshwa rule, though enjoyed by Brahmins, was an anathema for so-called Shudras and Ati-Shudras (outcaste). The practice of untouchability saw its ‘best expression’ in Peshwa rule. It was an exploitative racist regime and Pune was its centre. The ex-untouchable community was forced by the regressive rules set by Peshwas to join British Army and even though the whole community fought as part of the British Army, its actual battle was for its community’s own existence and identity. Despite this British Army being very small in number compared to the huge Peshawa force, it was ultimately able to succeed in defeating the Peshawas. The British built a victory pillar to celebrate this astonishing victory some years down the line. Dr. Ambedkar visited this place on 1st January 1927 and gave many visits thereafter to pay homage to these soldiers. The Ambedkarites followed this tradition. 1st January 2018 was a special day as it marked 200 years of this victory. Hundreds and thousands from all over the country came to Bhima Koregaon for these celebrations including men, women, and children.

 

The racist attack

 

Fascist Hindutva forces laid by Mr. Bhide and Mr. Ekbote were fuelling casteist hatred for past many years in this particular region. The trained cadre of organisations led by these two terrorists instigated upper caste villagers in the region and launched an attack with their help. The attack started in the morning and was mostly concentrated near Sansawdi, a village close to the war memorial. While people visiting from outside were present for honouring the celebrations, stones were pelted at them and their vehicles were set to fire. Many were chased and badly beaten up. Many with their small children were forced to run for kilometers.

bhima dharna

 

The present situation and our stand

 

Maharashtra government has appointed an inquiry commission to probe this attack. Interestingly while the inquiry is in progress, Maharashtra Police started arresting human rights defenders under the allegation of unlawful activities and links with Maoist armed groups. The government claims that ‘urban Naxals’ have instigated the Bhima Koregaon attack. On the other hand, when social activists and organisations demanded action in cases registered by victims of these casteist attacks, police and the government rejected their demands on the grounds that an inquiry commission is appointed and actions will be taken after its report. This discrepancy is good enough to explain how the government is standing up for the perpetrators. At this juncture, we are demanding immediate police action on the complaints launched by victims of these casteist attacks and also demanding adequate compensation for the victims. Some of our demands are general in nature but some are more particular and urging particular action by the government.

 

We are giving Dharana outside collector office since 14th November 2018. Though the administration is trying to suppress us by negligence, we are determined to fight for justice. We need support in this fight. We urge you to participate in whatever form possible. Even, a post on social media in support of the protest is also important. If it is possible for you, we also request you to contribute financially to support the protest. Even contribution of Rs. 10 is not small at this stage of the protest. You can directly donate online and the details are given below.

 

Name: Panchshil Bahuuddeshiy trust.

A/c : 80036930530

IFSC code: MAHG0004602 .

Name of the Bank: Maharashtra Gramin Bank.

 

Mr. Ashok Athavale, one of the victims of this caste-based violence is president of Panchashil Bahuuddeshiy Trust.

 

You can also contact Akash Sabale on 9890852778 for donations.

 

We will give all details of donations and expenses at the end.  

We will be giving a ‘Dharana’ outside the Collector office of Pune, Maharashtra from 14th November until the government acts on our demands. We are running an awareness campaign in and around Pune city to involve the Ambedkarite masses in this protest. While the campaign will create large awareness about the government’s fascist inclinations, the particular demands in protest will force the administration to take action against perpetrators. Around 10 teams of 20 activists including victims themselves will go to the people every day. Expenses for this campaign will be collected through donations and support from the people. Though we also welcome any institutionalised help, the community will be our primary source. We humbly request you to donate for this campaign and protest.

 

For further details contact Akash Sable: 9890852778.

 

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