As the violence that erupted during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in Pune spilled into Mumbai, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. The probe order was however rejected by Prakash Ambedkar, former MP and grandson of B R Ambedkar.
“The judicial inquiry ordered by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is not acceptable to us. The government should request to chief justice of Bombay High Court to appoint sitting judge to probe this incident. The judge should have the powers to collect the evidence and to punish the culprits. The inquiry should be conducted by a non-Dalit judge,” said Prakash Ambedkar who was one of the speakers at the Pune event.
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Normal life was thrown out of gear in Mumbai, especially in Chembur and Mulund, as Dalit groups called for a ‘rasta roko’ andolan following clashes between the community and Maratha groups on Monday in Pune that led to the death of a youth. The Dalit community had assembled in Pune to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle, in which British forces had defeated an army of Peshwas on January 1, 1818. Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory as it is believed that soldiers from the Mahar community – then considered untouchable – were part of the East India Company’s forces.
“A sitting High Court judge will head the inquiry and the youth’s death would be probed by the CID,” PTI quoted Fadnavis as saying as the government went into damage-control mode. He also announced a Rs 10 lakh grant to the kin of the youth killed as he appealed for calm and peace, saying Maharashtra was a progressive state which did not believe in casteist violence.
Hundreds of people stalled train operations at Mulund, Chembur, Bhandup, Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in Vikhroli and Nehru Nagar in Kurla on Monday morning, crippling normal life in Maximum City. Shops and business establishments were shut as groups of youths from Chembur, Vikhroli, Mankhurd and Govandi joined the protest, police said. Heavy police bandobast was seen in many areas in Mumbai and a protest march towards Ambedkar Garden in Chembur was foiled. Traffic on the Sion Panvel highway was blocked, while buses were vandalised in Pune’s Ahmednagar and Aurangabad districts.
“Around three lakh people had gathered (for the battle anniversary celebrations). Some people tried to create a serious scene. But six companies (of security personnel) were posted. Police promptly controlled the situation and averted a major problem,” Fadnavis said.
Five people, including four cops, were injured in the ensuing clashes as the government vowed strict action against those who used social media to spread rumours. Prakash Ambedkar, who was one of the speakers in the Bhima-Koregaon conference, has called for a statewide bandh on Wednesday, while the RPI has planned dharna outside all police stations in Mumbai.
However, NCP chief Sharad Pawar blamed the administration for the violence. “Since the administration did not take precautions, rumours and misunderstanding spread. A youth in Nanded died, unfortunately. People from political and social field should defuse the situation harmoniously and patiently without making provocative speeches,” the former Union minister appealed.