The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Wednesday blamed a “breaking India brigade” for the violence in Maharashtra, while the Congress-led opposition parties accused the Sangh Parivar and other Hindutva outfits of stoking violence against Dalits in the state.
Protesters attacked buses, stopped suburban trains and blocked roads at several places in Mumbai as normal life was hit in the city and other parts of Maharashtra during a bandh called against violence in the aftermath of Dalit groups, marking the 200th anniversary of the Anglo-Maratha war of 1818. The bandh call was later withdrawn by Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar.
Proceedings in both Houses of Parliament were either adjourned or disrupted as the Opposition parties demanded a discussion on the issue. The Rajya Sabha was adjourned thrice, while the Congress staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha.
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the House, Arun Jaitley, said the speeches made at the event in Bhima-Koregaon advocated break up of India.
The Congress demanded a probe by a Supreme Court judge into the clashes and questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “silence” on the issue.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the RSS and hardcore Hindutva outfits were “trying to drive a wedge between the Marathas and Dalits in Maharashtra”.
It also circulated pictures of Sambhaji Bhide with the PM and that of Bhide and Milind Ekbote with Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. The Congress alleged the two were behind the violence against Dalits, and were known to be close to the Sangh Parivar. On Tuesday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had tweeted that the RSS and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “fascist vision for India is that Dalits should remain at the bottom of the Indian society” and Bhima-Koregaon incident was a potent symbol of the resistance.
In Ujjain, RSS spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya the same “breaking India brigade” had raised anti-national slogans at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2016 and was now trying to divide the Hindu society. He said the RSS will not allow these forces to succeed. The RSS concluded its two-day meeting in Ujjain on Wednesday.
In Maharashtra, the bandh was called off later in the day. Dalits staged protests in suburban Chembur, Ghatkopar, Kamraj Nagar, Vikhroli, Dindoshi, Kandivali, Jogeshwari, Kalanagar and Mahim, police said. Hundreds of protesters tried to block the Western Express Highway in the morning but were moved from the spot by police. Incidents of stone pelting were reported at a few places on the harbour line, police said.
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader and B R Ambedkar's grandson, Prakash Ambedkar, had called for the bandh to protest against the state government’s “failure” to stop the violence at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district two days ago. Later, announcing the bandh withdrawal, he alleged right-wing leaders Bhide and Ekbote were behind the Pune violence and demanded that they be arrested and made to face the same legal process as Mumbai blasts accused Yakub Memon.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said those responsible for the caste violence in Pune would face action and the matter would be taken to its logical end. He said the state government would soon approach the Bombay High Court, asking it to name a sitting judge to probe the January 1 violence at Bhima-Koregaon in Pune district.
Violence erupted in Pune district on January 1 when Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in which the forces of the British East India Company defeated the Peshwa’s army. Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory as men from the Mahar community were part of the East India Company’s forces. The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of assertiveness by Dalits.