After a day-long agitation, cases have been filed in Pune against Gujarat Dalit leader and legislator Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, who have been accused of making provocative speeches triggering the caste tension between Dalits and upper caste Marathas. Two people have died during clashes and protests. Mevani and Khalid were supposed to speak in Mumbai on Thursday but police took them into custody. Apart from these provocative speeches, there are many such events that fuelled the sentiments of Dalits. Last year in 2016, the Marathas led huge rallies against the Prevention of Atrocities Act for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, saying this is a regressive law, which is misused with fake charges by Dalits against upper castes. Several Dalit organisations then organised counter-protests. As always, an affirmation by Dalits for equality led to anger among upper caste Brahmins who we call “Neo Peshwas”. This revenge was well planned; the 200th anniversary that was celebrated by Dalits to mark the defeat of the Peshwas was an ego problem for upper castes. Dalits, on other hand, are using social media for a digital revolution aimed at promoting the history and fight against casteism by those at the bottom of the social pyramid.
Whatever happened is a clear sign that a casteist mindset is still a reality in Indian society and the pride of Dalits hurts others to such an extent that it results in violence. Many media houses reported this incident as caste clashes and subvert the fact that on January 1, hundreds of people attacked peaceful visitors to Bhima Koregaon. The tension as said earlier began climbing last year; it needed an outlet. Because it was the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon, a large celebration by Dalits was planned and this was guaranteed to offend fundamentalist Maratha groups like Shiv Pratishthan, Hindu Ekta Manch. Locals alleged that right-wing groups were making speeches against the event three or four days prior to the incident. The gram panchayat of Bhima Koregaon wrote to the local police administration seeking protection, as there was a possibility of nuisance by some fringe elements.
Right-wing groups have accused Mevani, who won the Vadgam seat in the recent Gujarat assembly elections, and Umar Khalid, of inciting caste tension. Umar Khalid is a student of Delhi’s prestigious JNU who was named in a sedition case along with another student Kanhaiya Kumar in 2016. They had organised an event on Afzal Guru, who was hanged for conspiracy in the Parliament attack case, on the JNU campus, where anti-national slogans were raised.
A Pune resident Akshay Bikkad who has alleged said that the two urged people to “take forward the battle of Bhima Koregaon”. The complaint states, “Mevani provoked the people to come out on the streets and retaliate. Due to this statement, people took to the streets and tension gripped the city.” Dalits celebrate The Bhima-Koregaon battle on January 1 as a victory day. East India Company troops, made up of Dalit soldiers, had defeated the upper caste Peshwas of Maharashtra. Local right-wing groups had objected, asking why a British victory was being celebrated.
Our country is again on divide and rule state. All political parties are planning for 2019 election and wanted to retain power or regain power. There is lot to be done for the improvement of the infrastructure in this country but these hooligans are breaking the vehicles damaging public properties just because the politicians provoked them. The leader instigating these types of agitations should be brought to book.
Besides politicians, it’s the media in India that are creating communal hatred among people belonging to different castes and religions of the country. The nation is watching, what is being done for the general public in every part of our country. It looks like all funds are used and developed for Gujarat alone; the entire machinery is put in use for each elections and everyone of the ruling party member is busy visiting TV studios and mud-slinging matches. Now, again Umar Khalid has emerged after so many days when he was forgotten. Many wonder if Khalid is a mole of the ruling party just being used and re used, otherwise why should a political party be so concerned about a young lad shouting any slogan? Is he that powerful to bring down the government or the state or the country as imagined? Journalists never question the guys who keep saying the words presumable uttered by Umar Khalid, it is again disputed that tapes were doctored. Now if this young lad has done any wrong, who is stopping the ruling party who is quite powerful in charging sedation or other charges as fit for them and put him behind? But it will not happen.
The time has come we need a panchsheel doctrine among castes; Hinduism is nothing but an alliance of castes and like all coalitions, cold war among castes is unavoidable. While it is a criminal offence to abuse Dalits, there is no such injunction for Dalits. Earlier Dalits used to abuse Brahmins and now they have started abusing other OBC like Arya Vaishya in Andhra Pradesh or Lingayats in Karnataka, Mukkulathor in Tamil Nadu. Hence, we need a doctrine of panchsheel, where all castes including Dalits respect each other, maintain non-interference in each other’s affairs, abjuring all violence in their dealings and show respect for law and order. The incidents in Maharashtra state are an indication of the growing assertion of Dalits. They are no more underdogs willing to suffer. Reservation, which is a sacrifice of the society towards the downtrodden, has unfortunately, perpetuated the continuance of caste.
It is a stark reality. But after exploiting to the hilt, the benefits of reservation, some sections of the community instigate unrest in communion with anti-national forces. The law should treat all the transgressors equal irrespective of their castes. As per the Supreme Court order, the cost of the damage to the properties destroyed should be recovered from those, who destroyed them. Leaders have to take up the responsibility to maintain peace. Otherwise, violence will be hailed as the mark of success in all future agitations. We Indians don’t need these types of violent caste politics disturbing peace and harmony. We, the people, deserve better!
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