A day after one person was killed in clashes between Maratha and Dalit groups, in the wake of an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, opposition parties in the state slammed the BJP-led state government, accusing it of not taking enough measures to prevent “the activities of anti-social elements”.
In a Twitter post on the issue, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said it was known that a large crowd was going to attend the event. “The villagers of Vadhu have been saying that a few Hindu organisations had been visiting the local villages for the last few days, to incite… people by taking advantage of the situation,” he said.
“The administration could not take precautionary measures, which led to rumours and misunderstandings. A youth… was killed…,” Pawar said. He also urged politicians and others to refrain from provocative speeches, and help bring the situation under control. State NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said the tense situation in Bhima Koregaon “did not happen all of a sudden but was a pre-planned conspiracy”. “We condemn the incident and violence. There were efforts by a few elements… to create tension in the area. The memorial of Govind Mahar was damaged by a few miscreants in Vadhu village and police should not try to protect them,” he said.
The state government should not merely conduct a judicial probe but it should also “arrest the leaders of the radical groups and book them under MCOCA”, said Malik. The Congress condemned the incident, and the party’s Maharashtra unit chief Ashok Chavan said, “Local residents should not believe in rumours and they should maintain peace, to foil attempts by a few anti-social elements who are trying to create a divide in the society.”
Chavan said lakhs of people visit Bhima Koregaon every year on January 1, and a much larger turnout was expected this year because it was the 200th anniversary of the battle. He said, “Police were aware of it. Activists linked to RSS had been spreading rumours in the area for the last few days and trying to create a tense situation”. He also claimed that police did not take sufficient measures to avoid untoward incidents.
“Few anti-social elements from the city were involved in violence and police did not take any action against them, as per information from local residents…,” Chavan said, adding that it was evident from the incident that a “few anti-social elements had conspired to create a tense situation between the Dalit and Maratha communities”.
State Congress spokesperson Anant Gadgil alleged that the state government had “handled the situation miserably”. “If they were aware that a tense situation was brewing, they should have taken the utmost care to avoid it. It is also suspected that radical elements close to the BJP were spreading rumours in the area,” said Gadgil.
The Congress leader said the government should have taken cognisance of the alleged activities by radical elements and acted upon them, and it was the responsibility of the state government to contain the violence. “The unnecessary communal divide throughout the country looks like it was a well worked-out strategy… by those in power,” alleged Gadgil.
Terming the incident “extremely unfortunate”, Shiv Sena leader and MLC Neelam Gorhe said, “We sincerely hope that peace prevails in the areas… we also need to ask why such incidents are taking place around this time. We request the Chief Minister to order thorough inquiries into these incidents and bring the culprits to book. We are urging people to refrain from forwarding messages and posting unverified information. The historical events need to be looked at from the perspective of learning lessons from them”.