Maharashtra came to a near standstill on Wednesday with members of the Dalit community marching the streets and halting rail services and traffic in the state in protest against the violence on the anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in Pune. One life was also lost during the violence on 1 January.
Congress, Dalit leaders demand clarification from Narendra Modi
Prakash Ambedkar, president of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, who had launched the strike — and called it off later in the evening on Wednesday — asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make his stand clear on the caste violence gripping Maharashtra.
"The prime minister should acknowledge that the person whom he has declared as his guru is bent upon creating chaos in this country. The prime minister is due for elections by 2019. He will have to answer the question whether he believes in the guru who believes in chaos; therefore I request the prime minister that he should make himself very clear in Lok Sabha by making a statement,” he said.
Ambedkar was referring to Milind Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi, and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, who allegedly orchestrated violence during celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on Monday. An FIR has been filed against the two.
The Bhima-Koregaon violence and the subsequent protests in Maharashtra created a furore in Parliament as well with Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge asking Modi to clarify his stand on the issue on Wednesday.
"The RSS and certain hardcore Hindutva outfits are behind the violence. They are trying to drive a wedge between the Marathas and Dalits in Maharashtra," Kharge alleged.
"Why is Modi silent on the issue? He always maintained silence on issues relating to Dalits. He has become a 'Mouni Baba'on Dalit issues.
"When Dalits start living with dignity and organise some event, there are some people who try to disturb it. This happened in Koregaon (in Pune district)," Kharge added while demanding a probe in the Bhima-Koregaon incident headed by a Supreme Court judge and a statement from Modi on the issue.
Congress politicising violence, says BJP
Kharge's comments triggered an angry response from BJP MPs, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar rebutting the charges and accusing the Congress of trying to play politics over the issue.
"Congress wants to politicise the issue. The party suffered electoral drubbing in so many states in the recent past and that is why they want to milk political mileage over the issue," Kumar said.
The Bhima-Koregaon violence and Maharashtra Bandh was also a topic of discussion in Parliament on Thursday as well. Congress MP Rajni Patil and Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agarwal demanded action and constitution of a commission for a report on the matter on Thursday.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut commended the government for dealing with the crisis. ANI quoted him as saying: "Bhima-Koregaon violence was unfortunate. The Maharashtra government showed restraint in dealing with the violence. The situation could have worsened, but whatever the government did, it was the right thing to do."
Raut's comment, however, was completely different from what the party stated through its mouthpiece Saamana.
Shiv Sena takes on Devendra Fadnavis
The Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP in the state as well as the Centre, not only criticised the Fadnavis government over the Bhima-Koregaon violence but also alleged that the state government had no work except to fight elections using the state machinery and police.
"Incidents that raise questions about the ability and the stand of the Fadnavis government are happening every day. The chief minister has ordered a judicial inquiry into the Bhima-Koregaon incident but every government does the same thing. What is new in that?" an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamana read.
The party also said the government should bring its feet on the ground, and that there was a whole life to fight the Sena. "You can try all your might to politically finish the Sena later. For now, this might should be used to fight the enemies," said the party.
According to 101Reporters, reacting to developments in Maharashtra, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati criticised the BJP in Lucknow on Wednesday. She said, “BJP and RSS do not wish that Dalits revisit and identify with their history, learn from it and live with self-esteem.”
Mayawati also said that the celebration of the Bhima-Koregaon battle “irks the BJP, RSS and other anti-Dalit groups of the country, who have attacked Dalits as per plan.”
Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Mumbai secretary Pramod Gaikwad had said on Wednesday, “What happened in Bhima-Koregaon has left deep wounds in the minds of followers of Babasaheb. The incident could have been averted. But on the contrary, it seems that it was done after full planning. The chief minister is answerable for this. He cannot escape.”
Sumit Wajale, state secretary of Republican Party of India (Athavale), who led the protest in Bandra (East) on Wednesday, insisted that the protest was not political in nature, and the “entire Ambedkari Samaj (all Dalit organisations and Ambedkar followers) across party lines had come together to express their anguish against casteist mindset of the present government”.
Devendra Fadnavis blames outsiders
According to ANI, Fadnavis said on Wednesday that an inquiry will be conducted in the incidents of violence.
Inquiry will be conducted in the incidents of violence that took place across Maharashtra. We are monitoring the CCTV footage of the violence: CM Devendra Fadnavis #BhimaKoregaonViolence pic.twitter.com/DNqzPHPC0Y
— ANI (@ANI) January 3, 2018
However, Fadnavis blamed outsiders for instigating violence in the state. The chief minister, however, claimed that “outside forces will not succeed in influencing Maharashtra’s peace-loving people”.
“We (Maharashtrians) have always striven to stay away from communal and castiest forces. But outsiders are coming to Maharashtra and trying to influence and instigate people of the state. They are trying to disturb the harmony. We are confident that people will not follow them,” he said.
With inputs from agencies and 101Reporters
Updated Date: Jan 04, 2018 17:47 PM