On 1 January 2018, thousands of Dalits and Bahujans had gathered at Bhima Koregaon near Pune to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon Battle of 1818 in which the British Bombay Native Infantry, comprising mostly Mahar Dalit soldiers, defeated the Peshwa army. Shockingly, the Dalits and Bahujans who had gathered for the function were attacked violently by men carrying saffron flags, and one man was killed and several injured as a result.
After the violent attack, various dalit groups started agitations demanding the arrest of Sambhaji and Ekbote, holding them responsible for the violence. Narendra Modi remained totally silent on the issue. The Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis government, known as the new Peshwa Raj, instead of acting against Sambhaji and Ekbote, started blaming the dalits for the violence and witch-hunting activists and leaders who protested against the violence. The government is accusing leaders of people’s struggles like Jignesh Mevani of inciting dalits and vitiating social harmony. The rumour is also being spread that this is a clash between Mahars and Marathas, whereas the attack was clearly carried out by saffron Hindutva elements. BJP governments are attempting to file a false case against Jignesh Mevani and Umar Khalid and have them arrested. During the past week there have been countless protests across the country against anti-dalit Brahminical and state-sponsored violence. All the protests are demanding the arrest of the Bhima Koregaon culprits and the resignation of the Fadnavis government. On 3 January the CPI(ML) supported the Maharashtra bandh called by Bhartiya Republican Paksh Bahujan Mahasangh led by Prakash Ambedkar and various other dalit and Maratha organizations which was a total success.
A united protest was called on 3 January 2018 outside Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi against recent attacks on Dalits at the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle and the subsequent violence that spread across Maharashtra. All India Students Association (AISA) and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) also participated in organizing the protest.
Left Parties in Bhilai issued a statement strongly condemning the brutal violence on dalits at Bhima-Koregaon by Hndutva organizations. A joint protest was also held by CPI (ML), CPI, CPM, SUCI (C), and CMM on 4 January 2018 at Ambedkar Chowk, Power House.
A protest march was held in Dhanbad and effigies of PM Modi and Maharashtra CM Fadnavis were burnt. Students, youth and women participated in large numbers at the protest.
In Bihar, protest marches, meetings, and PM’s and CM’s effigy burnings were organized at various District HQs including capital Patna, Siwan, Samastipur, Darbhanga, Purnea, Ara, Arwal, Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur, Jehanabad, Beguserai, Betiya, Gaya, Nalanda, Madhubani, Nawada, Bhagalpur, Kaimur and other places. In UP also, protest marches, meetings and effigy burnings were held at various places across the State including Lucknow, Ghazipur, Devariya, Ballia, Kanpur, Sitapur, Muradabad, Allahabad, Mau, Banaras, and Rae Bareli. AISA and RYA observed Savitri Bai Phule’s birthday on 3 January and held a people’s convention at the Lucknow Press Club where they demanded the release of Chandrashekhar Ravan.
The CPI (ML) Jhunjhunu District Committee held a one-day dharna at the District Collector’s office against the Bhima Koregaon violence against dalits and demanded arrest and action against the culprits.