On January 1 every year, Dalits and Bahujans gather at Bhima Koregaon near Pune to commemorate the anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon Battle of 1818 in which the British Bombay Native Infantry, comprising mostly Mahar Dalit soldiers, defeated the Peshwa army. This date is revered by the Dalits as a victory against the Brahminical Peshwas. This year the function was especially important since it marked 200 years of the battle.

But this year, those gathering for the function were attacked violently by men carrying saffron flags, and one man was killed and several injured as a result. At Vadhu Budruk close to Bhima Koregaon, stones were pelted at Dalits and organised ‘social boycott’ against Dalits en route to the function.

Though a large gathering of Dalit-Bahujans was fully expected at Bhima Koregaon, the police presence to protect the gathering was negligible. Milind Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan led the attacks; Ekbote is an former corporator from the BJP and Bhide also is close to top BJP and Shiv Sena leaders.

On January 2, protests by Dalits against the attacks on the Bhima Koregaon gathering were held at various places in Maharashtra and Mumbai. These protests also are being attacked. Shamefully, sections of the media are trying to brand the attacks as “caste clashes” and even blame the Dalit activists and Dalit assertion for “triggering” the “clashes”!

The CPI(ML) supports the call for a Maharashtra Bandh on January 3, to protest the attacks on Dalits by the BJP Government headed by Devendra Fadnavis, which is being called the neo-Peshwai regime with good reason. The CPI(ML) also calls for countrywide protests in solidarity with the Maharashtra Bandh.

Prabhat Kumar,

for CPI(ML) Central Committee