If the government can provide police protection for occasions like the Amarnath Yatra, why was it unable to provide security for Dalits at Bhima Koregaon event.
I was at the event meant to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle (wherein Dalit soldiers of the British army defeated the Maratha Peshwas) in Pune Sunday. On Sunday night and Monday morning, there was no police. The state’s job is to provide security and protection for all. Now if the government provides police protection for Hindu occasions as the Amarnath Yatra or for any politician’s visits, why was it unable to provide our community police protection for an event as big as this? The state was in a clear-cut position to control the violence on the first sight itself, but it didn’t do so!
On 29 December, there were already some imminent tensions on account of the desecration of the structure near Gopal Mahar’s tomb. On that front, there was a conspiracy by the RSS and the BJP in order to foil the Bhima Koregaon commemoration, but as far as the Koregaon memorial is concerned, no violence took place there.
Thankfully, already there are many Dalit Bahujans recruited by Ambedkarite organisations, to take care of this space, but this violence was happening approximately about 5 km away. Given these conditions and the massive amount of support system that existed among the Dalits, the escalation of this situation was unanticipated.
Around 10.30 am on 1 January, reports came in stating that some people had been attacked. Survivors of the Una attacks were also at the Bhima Koregaon event and they were threatened as well. All this, while the police were just standing and watching it happen there without taking any actions against perpetrators.
A Dalit member, Rahul Phatangale, was martyred during a protest in the village of Bhima Koregaon, and now the way in which protests have been demonstrated seem to show no sign of respite. Today, there have been calls for a Maharashtra bandh, but what media is reporting as violence is in fact a manifestation of the neo-Peshwai. These are the forces of the Sangh Parivar, the BJP, and the casteist Hindu polity.
Our need to fight back has been simmering for the past two years. The struggle that has been demonstrated Tuesday and Wednesday, has thus been viewed more as a resistance. It was a much-needed resistance against the ongoing atrocities of the BJP in Maharashtra, and also at the Center.
As of today, the coverage of this issue has been quite pathetic, indeed, doing more of an injustice to the martyrs. The media says “Dalit violence”, or uses phrases like ‘clashes’, but look at the way the vehicles were torched, or the way a Dalit person was actually killed. Tell me, what kind of ‘violence’ has been committed by Dalits? Indeed, while violence is something to be condemned, this supposed ‘violence’ is a byproduct of our anger and resentment that has long been suppressed. The media’s portrayal lately implicates Dalits in all of the conspiracy hatched by the RSS and the BJP.
Little coverage of the resistance itself took place. Instead of asking tough questions to the sitting government in Maharashtra, they are instead asking questions of Dalit groups now. And moreover, if anyone had come to the event itself (Bhima Koregaon’s 200th anniversary), they would have observed a clear absence of mediapersons out there.
This was an event where lakhs of Dalits were present to assert themselves, but people covering it have only focussed on the assault, which has actually been enabled by the government.
I attended it out of pride, there was no insecurity or fear. The Bhima Koregaon memorial was important to me. I feel that there is hope in their struggle against the Peshwas, especially seeing the Bhima Koregaon monument which was inspirational. As for planning solidarities and building movements, that is a long plan of action that will take some time to actually decide a course on it. But I would want to be part of any anti-caste, Ambedkarite movement which will happen. I was part of the anti-caste movement when the rape and murder of Dalit girl, Jisha, happened in Kerala, and involved with the movement against atrocities in Una as well. I will stand in solidarity with any ongoing anti-caste movements to come.
As told to ThePrint’s reporter Sabah Azaad.
Radhika Vemula is an activist, anti-caste leader and mother of Rohith Vemula.