With in no time, riots sparked all over Maharashtra. This time it’s between Dalit and Maratha. It really saddens me to look at these incidents, while outside world is moving at a rapid pace. One day will come when technological advancements, innovations will be light years ahead of us and we will fail to catch up with them. It will have a catastrophic effect on society. No leader will be there to help, while they will be busy filling their coffers.
Scorching Bhima Koregaon has many questions to be asked to these so-called politicians those playing caste base politics. The spark ignited when Gujarat’s MLA Jignesh Mevani, JNU Students Union Leader Umar Khalid, Radhika Vemula, the mother of Rohit Vemula, Prakash Ambedkar, Retired Chief Justices Maharashtra BG Kolse Patil, Bhim Army National President Vinay Ratan Singh, Bastar’s Social Activist Soni Sori, Ambedkar Students Union Leader Prashant Dante, and many others gathered at Shaniwar Wada remembering 200th anniversary of Bhima Koregaon. The fiery speeches, provocative dialogs and recent success in Gujarat over caste based politics had warmed up the ambience.
All the leaders who are instigating Dalits and alienating them from the mainstream should be arrested. It is horrible that these traitors are celebrating victory of a colonial entity because their ancestors were serving British. It is incredibly awful to look at the situation in the country. The politicians are working overtime in splitting the society, key board warriors on social media are adding fuel to the fire and so called foot soldiers, who don’t understand head or tail of what oneness means and for that matter nation is the first priority, are going on rampage.
Battle of Koregaon has connotation to Mahars and other Dalits in India, who remember it every January 1 as a mark of their triumph against the dehumanising rule of the Peshwas and as the first step in their ongoing struggle against caste-based oppression. As the story goes, on New Year’s Day in 1818, about 500 soldiers of the East India Company’s Bombay Native Infantry regiment led by Colonel FF Staunton waded across the Bhima river and, at Bhima Koregaon, routed a superior force of 25,000 well-equipped soldiers of the Peshwa. The British began to recruit Mahars again during the First World War, but disbanded the regiment after the war was over. Finally in 1945, the Mahar Regiment was permanently reformed. Both Dhoble and Bhosle are members of that regiment, which is now based in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. Every year, members of the Mahar Regiment, in and out of uniform, come to the pillar to pay their respects. On January 1, 1927, Ambedkar led a commemoration at the pillar just outside the village. Since then they celebrate this day. People come to the pillar, lay flowers at its base and then move on to the other amusements on offer at the 11-acre ground owned by the military.
The British viewed it as the clinching episode in the third Anglo-Maratha war, which ended with the Peshwas being forced to cede control of the Maratha Empire to the East India Company. This set the foundation for British rule in western India.
Although the first Maratha ruler, Shivaji, freely recruited Mahars in his army, two centuries later, by the time of the Peshwas, the status of Mahars was lower than ever. The Peshwas were Brahmins of a particularly orthodox bent. Stories told even today recall how and when Mahars entered towns; they were made to tie brooms behind their backs to sweep up the dust of their footprints and to tie pots in front on their necks to collect their spittle. It was also a criminal offence to hide one’s caste. Dalit recounting of the battle emphasises that when the English were approaching, Mahars offered their services to Peshwa Bajirao II. It was only when he rejected them yet again that they switched their loyalty to the British instead.
In 1851, the British erected a memorial pillar at Bhima Koregaon, with the names of those who had died in the battle. Most of the names are of Mahar soldiers. 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.
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. It is questioning the dominant notion of nation and nationalism. This is making the upper-caste groups in Maharashtra anxious. Therefore, the celebration around Dalit militancy is very specific to the efforts of that marginalised community.
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