By celebrating Koregaon battle, Dalits are saying we aren’t a polite, manageable community

Bhima-Koregaon Victory Pillar
Bhima-Koregaon Victory Pillar

The Koregaon celebration by Dalits questions the dominant notion of nation and nationalism. This is why anxious upper caste groups call it “anti-national”.

The celebration of the Bhima Koregaon battle points to a re-emergence and celebration of Dalit militancy. The commemoration and celebration of Bhima Koregaon revolves around the defeat of Peshwas by the untouchable soldiers of the colonial army at that time. It was fought 200 years ago, and is a prideful and heroic chapter of Dalit historical memory.

Acknowledging and remembering this battle – by turning up in such large numbers and assembling at the site – actually runs counter to the normative aspect of the caste system, which does not allow space to a Dalit to act as a militant.

Ancient Hindu scriptures like the Manusmriti have mentioned very clearly that a Dalit, or the lower caste Shudras and the Ati-Shudras, do not have the right to even have this force in their defence. Koregaon remembrance also goes against this very idea of what we call caste normalcy.

It challenges the dominant Hindu-nationalist perspective about Dalits – as a polite, manageable community silently suffering the existing caste hierarchies and caste injustice. By celebrating Koregaon in this manner, Dalits are saying ‘No’. They are saying: “We will celebrate the militancy that is part of our history”. Upper castes have either stifled our histories, or twisted them because they don’t find them suitable for continuing their narrative of Hindu nationalism. To retain their hold on history, they reject the notion of parallel histories.

Now, Dalits have begun to search, locate and assert their own presence in India’s history.

Going to these sites has become a sort of alternate folk culture for both rural and urban Dalits. People are coming to Koregaon from states like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka as well. Over the years, its hold on Dalit memory and consciousness has expanded.

With the spread of the internet, social media platforms and new Dalit web portals, there is a renewed effort to consolidate and reclaim Dalit histories and sites of resistance or memory. Now in India, we have also begun to observe Dalit History Month, which helps in this effort. The celebration at Koregaon is situated in this spectrum.

B.R. Ambedkar himself actively researched and visited such sites of Dalit history. He used to visit Bhima Koregaon every year, he even conducted a big conference there. Ambedkar continued the legacy of Dalit militancy when he formed the Samata Sainik Dal.

Ambedkar showed that militancy refers to a resolve to not be stopped, or threatened by any other force that is looking to subjugate you. And if the protection of the self is required, one is ready to do so by any method. He differentiated between the two meanings of the word ‘militancy’.

Now, this celebration is entering the realm of new spaces that Dalits are carving out in the new century. One can see this pattern in the emergence of small groups that are protesting against authorities, like the Bhim Army.

Dalit militancy does not stem from a violent agenda of beating or burning someone, it has to do with the idea of protection and assertion of rights – even through militancy. You can see this energy in the new campus narrative as well. The emergence of ABVP and other powerful right-wing groups with connections with the ruling party and the government is being resisted by Dalit associations in equal measure – whether it is the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) in Hyderabad, the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA) in JNU, or other groups on different campuses.

The right-wing is crafting its own history in a way that often resorts to both physical and epistemic violence. Dalits, on the other hand, resurface their own history by invoking icons like Ambedkar, Periyar, and celebrating their past in the present times. This is causing anxiety and frustration among the upper castes.

The Bhima Koregaon celebration in Pune and Maharashtra is being opposed by right-wing groups. They are calling it “anti-national”, because Dalit and Ambedkarite groups are going to visit the Shaniwar Wada (headquarters of the Peshwas) also. Dalits are saying that we ended the brutal rule of the Peshwas, and this is our celebration. They are dancing there, they are also showing their newfound militant prowess by doing akhadas and kushti. Many people who were in the Mahar battalion, who are still in the force, are also visiting the place.

It is questioning the dominant notion of nation and nationalism. This is making the upper-caste groups in Maharashtra anxious.

Even when Ambedkar started the SSD, the savarna community had hailed it as a violent force, but he made it very clear that this was for Dalits’ safety and protection. But even then, all the liberals, progressives, and conservatives were not convinced. It is unlikely that the celebration of Bhima Koregaon will easily enter the mainstream narrative, or be acknowledged by mainstream political parties, because it goes against the very idea of a sacred and pristine nation, and nationalism celebrated both by the progressive and regressive factions in fact.

Therefore, the celebration around Dalit militancy is very specific to the efforts of that marginalised community.

Rahul Sonpimple is a leader with the Dalit Bahujan student group, BAPSA.

28 COMMENTS

  1. The basic way of showing upper caste helplessness again.. That moment is celebrated to show how calm a dalit can be yet at same time how fearless he can be..They oppose just to crush the reality that they were defeated by small pack of dalit minority.. Nationalism wr is it wn basic human rights till date remain a question to such communities..

  2. So Dalits are not part of Hindu nationalism or Hindu community…Hindu nationalism is not a Brahamanical movement it is to love everything which is Bhartiya

  3. This is how the leftist divide Hindus. The battle of Bhima-Koregaon was not between Brahan ans Mahar a dalit community.,but it was between Bajirao-II who was leading the Shivaji Maharaja’s army and Army of East India Company’s army (Mahar regiment) under British officer where the Baji rao-II was defeated due to treason of Indian and the Shivaji Maharaja’s dynasty Lost power to British. This is how the British won battles by dividing Indian and leftists are still encouragging same.

  4. NO I DON’T AGREE WITH THIS ALL CELEBARATIONS.
    THIS ENJOYING AND SHOW OFF ACTS EITHER BY ANY CASTE IS CREATING HAVOCS,HATREDNESS AND CASTE DISCRIMINATION IN OUR INDIAN SOCIETIES.

    AND FURTHER GROWS WITH HATRED AND CASTEISM IN ALL YOUNG INDIANS. WHO IS THE FUTURE OF OUR INDIAN DEMOCRACY.

    TODAY YOU GO IN ANY FIELD IN INDIA,THE DEEP ROOTED CASTEISM PREVAILS OVER THEIR WHICH ALWAYS RESULTS IN DEEP PAIN AND AGONY WHO FACES IT.

    AND DUE TO THIS WE INDIANS LACK BEHIND IN EVERY ASPECT IN COMPARISON TO ALL DEVELOPED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

    APART FROM CASTEISM EVERYTHING IN INDIA IS GOOD.

    WE ALL SHOULD BE ONE UNDER OUR INDIAN DEMOCRACY.

  5. Lol… In our history books we had studied how Britishers exploited Indians , how britishers killed hundreds of innocent women, children at Jalianwala baug, how they killed bhagatsingh, Rajguru and many other freedom fighters and now after independence what are we doing ? Celebrating British victory ? Just because Britishers had few Dalit soldiers ? So are Dalits more important than India’s pride ? In my opinion, celebrating victory of oppressivive British governments amounts to insult to thousands of freedom fighters like Gandhiji, Savarkar, bhagatsingh….just think over it

    • For all your vaunt and meaningless jingoism expressing your anti-British sentiments it appears that you know so little of history. If you are REALLY patriotic and 100 percent anti-British you must1. Get rid of everything that is English . Foe Heaven sake stop using English that reminds you every nano second that it the language of the whole world. India is pretty darn lucky the colonizer was not Portuguese ( India like Angola or Mozambique) nor Dutch (like Indonesia) nor the French or Spanish. They were all competing like hell to colonize India and the Spanish would have made India into a “Mexcico” of Asia and2. Don’t play cricket a purely English sport plus several other things

  6. Shudras are Savarna and were never Daalits except in the imagination and literature of the British and their PANGOLIN stooges. Shudras used to form the bulk of the Temple Congregations and the land owning class. Daalits were never part of the Savarna People of Dharma but formed the major portion of the Hindoo Lumpen the British created to destroy Brahmins and the Congregational Temple Welfare system. The british used the Daalits to massacre Brahmins in the Bombay Presidency in the same way they used the Pathans, Sikhs and Madrassis to massacre Brahmins, (men women and children) in the Bengal Presidency as reprisal for 1857.

    Note: PANGOLIN: An enemy of India who believes in inequality under law, exceptions to the rule of law and persecution of some for the benefit of others. At present, the sole purpose of the Indian Republic, Constitutional or otherwise, is to pamper and provide for certain constitutionally preferred sections of society who the British found useful to hold and exploit India at the cost of those who the British hated and persecuted. The Pangolin is a creature that is unique to India and feeds on ants that are known in nature to be industrious and hard working if not quite as fruitful as bees who flee to better climes. (PANGOLIN is an acronym for the Periyar-Ambedkar-Nehru-Gandhi-Other (alien) Religions-Communist Consensus that usurped the British Mantle and has worn it with elan to loot, plunder, and rape India since 1921 and re write History and laws to their exclusive benefit since 1947)

  7. It is peaceful process of remembering how Peshwa Raj was brought to an end.

    If this is Dalit Militancy then what will you call Peshwa Raj?

    Do away with peshwa Raj!!!

    Call them ‘Martial’ or ‘Rebel’ who revolted against the oppresive spirit.

    Calling them Militants depicts they are bearing arms and ammunitions and do not oblige by constitutional methods.

  8. The sense of being inferior in front of such a lower caste mahars untouchables is now also prevailing in present day in the minds of our so called upper caste is really shameful for our society. I can say that this matter should be taken as an example and cannot be forgotten for the near future. There is a need for all of us INDIANS to really look at this closely to make our society caste less. This incidents time and again tells us the reality of our society which we don’t want to see.

  9. and this was not the victory of dalits but that of the britisher they were jus mercineries who faught for britishers nice way to celeberate british gulami

  10. Kulkarni..
    British gulami was better than peshawa’s gulami. British believed in rule of law..equality before law. When british conquered india our moderate leaders thought it was a god gift. Such anarchy was there in society

  11. “The untouchables (dalits) of India want economic,social,political,religious and educational equality in society, not in the eyes of God.”(Harbans Lal Badhan)

  12. It may be victory of British, but it can be of Peshawa army also, if they will have given humanity rights to then dalit, will have treated them as human and will have given them opportunity to battle by their sides as their soldiers. But peshwa’s were in their superiority complex. And this was the reason they lost their 28000 persons army just by 500 dalits. This is the bravery day of dalits. Should not be considered as british victory, even if it is.

    • Very few Indians read Greek History and Persian History which were all part of World History when I was in college Read HG Wells “Outline of World History” or even Nehru’s Glimpses of World History especially about the Battle of Thermopylae waged by 1400 Greek soldiers captained by King Leonidss against a massive army of 60,000 under Emperor Xerxes. Every Greek fought brilliantly only to lose the battle finally. Xerxes couldn’t believe his own eyes and erected a momument for the vanquished Greeks praising the Greeks for patriotism and courage

      My question is is it possibly that the Dalits fought the Peshwas Army with fervor and courage to defeat the fat useless army of 24,000?

  13. First of all i would like to mention that the battle was between british and maratha empire…it was not like mahars were not there in the army of peshwa or maratha empire.you may recall the battle of purandar fought by murarbaji vs dilerkhan.After fall of murarbaji there were mahar who were fighting aginst the dilerkhan with VALOUR AND PRIDE.talking about manusmriti;it is smriti,it is relevant as per time.may not relevant right now and the info shared(i.e. so called lower caste had no right even for self defence) may be true because many people wrote it for their own benefits..if modern dalits want to show their history of their valour they must show the battles like battle of purandar.because battle of purandar was fought for swarajya, dream given by chatrapati shivaji. And if this incident is to be celebrated then i must say even the death afjal khan should also be celebrated…celebrate the battle of pawan khind fought by bajiprabhu deshpande.but unfortunately when we celebrate death of afjal khan we it becomes something insecular or hurting the feelings of minorities.there were and there are many soldier or leader like qualities these so called lower cast people have..use them in a right way…dont create such DIFFERENCES की हम कुछ अलग हैँ..because it will widen the gap among the people of our country..last question does hindu nationalism say that there is no place for dalits and miborities in this country? I want answer for this…☺

  14. Its insulting india with eating n staying in india itself. Battle was won by british not dalits,in battle british used manpower of dalits thats all, its shameful,there are educated dalits but still level of thinking not changed. All things will be solved after one india one rule for all castes all should come in general category,who are needy for them govt can support financially.,I know its now difficult considering vote bank.

  15. ना “ब्राम्हण” जिंकले!
    ना “मराठा” जिंकले!
    ना “दलित” जिंकले!

    जिंकले फक्त “इंग्रज” 200 वर्षानंतरही फूट पाडण्यात यशस्वी 🙏🏻

  16. So many funny people here posting without understandings….

    1. It was 28,000 peshwa force out of which only 2800 was kept at koregaon and major part of army was sent to protect pune. So there were not 28000 peshwa force but 2800 only. How can 500-800 people can defeat 28000? that equals to one person winning against 25-50 people. So funny to imagine

    2. There was no BRAHMIN in peshwa force so cant say it was mahar vs brahamins

    3. Britishers were with mahar force so ultimately they had upper hand, latest gadgets and game plan.

    4. They were helping britishers to kill their own people. so should it be called war??

  17. DONT BLUFF UR CONFUSING SUDRAS A PART OF VARNA WITH DALITS ..A TRICK NICELY PLAYED BY COLONIAL MASTERS…even ambedkar was made to believe the same by reading indian books translated to english by english

  18. In this controversy, We forgot the Pule Family, who devote their life for all . Savitribai Phule had birth anniversary on 3rd Jan. Shame……..

  19. The politics of divide and conquer and divide and rule still alive and kicking in the old colony decades since British rule ended. The Empire did a great job of devastating the Indian continent, that its effects are still felt to this day.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here