Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Battle of Koregaon!!

SreeNair | 3:19 AM |

he Battle of Koregaon won by British Army;was a territorial clash per se, between the British and the Maratha ruler, Peshwa Baji Rao II. It assumed much importance for the Dalits, who consider it a victory-moment over Peshwa authority. The Mahars, though untouchables, had been valued for their military acumen by both Britisher's and Shivaji’s Army. However, when the Peshwas took over, the Mahars in lieu of their low caste status were ill-treated by the ruling Brahmins.

In the Battle of Koregaon, the Mahars formed a major chunk of the British troops in the war and their victory over a much stronger Peshwa war machine came to be commemorated over the years as an event of pride for the Mahars.

Every year on january 1,thousands from Mahars, a Dalith community in Maharashtra , throng to the victory pillar in Kargoan near Pune to commemorate the war victory that took place 200 years ago. This year the bicentenary celebratory event of the battle of Korgoan turned out to be violent cast clashes, which left one dead and scores injured.

It all started on December 29, when someone put up a board near a structure believed to be the tomb of Govind Gopal Mahar -a Dalit from the Mahar community in Vadhu Budruk village, about 5 km from Bhima Koregaon in Pune. The board said he defied the orders of Mughal king Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. Govind Gopal Mahar was tortured and murdered by Aurangzeb in 1689.They believe that it was their ancestors who had performed the last rites. The Gram Panchayat authorities objected and alleged that history was being falsified as there was no evidence to corroborate the claim. The recurring theme was that the battle is the Kshathria dharma- invoking Manu. Dalits have no history of battles ever fought. Hence the Dalits will not be permitted to conduct victory celebrations.The same day, an offence was registered by Dalit activists against 49 persons of Vadhu Budruk village under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.On the first January, when lakhs of Dalits had gathered in the city to attend the event, an altercation broke out between the rival communities which eventually led to the clash.

The tremors of violence spread quickly to other parts of the state across several districts in western Maharashtra as well as the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. Activists of Dalit groups, social outfits and Ambedkarite parties staged roadblocks.Commerce and commute in several parts of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad were thrown off-kilter as State transport buses were pelted with stones during demonstrations by Bhim Sainiks.Maharashtra Chief Minister has blamed Maoists for the violence.Villagers demanded that the government pay compensation of Rs1 crore for the family of the deceased Rahul Fatangade. The Maharashtra government has ordered a judicial probe and announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Fatangade's family.Devendra Fadnavis ordered a judicial inquiry into Bhima-Koregaon clashes.

The celebrations were ever peaceful over the years though disenchantment overcast the firmament. The simmering discontent between Marathas and Kunbi castes were flared when in July 2006 four Dalit men in a Bhotmango family were killed in a gory incident in Bhandara District in Maharashtra. In July 2016, a 14-year-old girl of the rival community, studying in Class IX was gang-raped and tortured to death at Kopardi village in Karjat taluka of Ahmednagar district. The violent conflicts ensued, soared to the level of political fulminations, culminated in the torching of many many Dalit ghettos in Pune, Nasik and Ahmedabad Nagar. The Marathi upsurge resulted in a hike in the reservation in Govt services which fermented the Daliths resentment. Dalits political assertion has led to Gigesh Mevani, the Gujarat MLA in the Edgar Parishad to declare that Dalits are on a warpath with the new Pershaows of BJP-RSS outfit.

The struggle attained new dimensions when the Marathasc came to the rescue of the Brahman CM with the presumption that the Dalit struggle is directed to Fednavis.The Dalits were hitherto tied to the mainstream parties like BJP,Congress and the NCP. The Republican party founded by Ambedkar works as incoherent and disruptive splinter groups in Maharashtra .The new saga has spiked up the Dalit consolidation. The Dalit politics which revolved around mainstream politics have begun to enjoy their new found identity The Gorgoan has instilled a need for a common cause for the Dalits in Maharashtra. The Marati community consisting of 32 percent of Maharashtra also has consolidated as a new political entity to reckon with that no mainstream politics can afford to ignore.

The politics which revolved around Marathi pride are now on the trail behind caste politics. When the Marathi-Dalit conflict turns worse the caste-nationalism will firm up its grips hard.The cast is the greatest fault line of Indian politics.


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