The Ambedkarite Students Association, UK, held protests in front of the Indian High Commission in London last week to condemn the violence that broke out during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1. A group of 10 persons, led by Saunvedan Aparanti and Asang Wankhede, also submitted a list of demands at the India House. The demands included the arrest of Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, who have been booked in cases of atrocity and “instigating” the violence. The protesters held banners that stated “Say no to caste terrorism” and “Hindu society not my society”.
They also demanded the release of Ambedkarites arrested by police over the violence and justice for the victims of the Bhima Koregaon “caste attacks”. The protesters also sought a judicial probe under the purview of a Supreme Court judge. “The protest was held at 1 pm (UK time) in front of the Indian High Commission. We condemned the unprovoked violence meted out to innocent people by those who still find our assertions difficult to witness. We had given a call for global protests against the Bhima Koregaon violence,” Aparanti, a student at the University of Law, London, told The Indian Express over the phone.
In the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, which took place on January 1, 1818, the British Army is believed to have defeated the army of the Peshwas. Members of the Dalit community believe that the British force comprised largely of soldiers from the Dalit Mahar community, who waged a “war for freedom” from the alleged casteism of the Peshwas. In 1927, Dr B R Ambedkar had visited the Jaystambh (victory memorial) erected in Perne village by the British government in memory of the soldiers who died in the battle.
Lakhs of Dalits visit the Jaystambh every year and consider it a source of inspiration to fight “casteist forces”. Police believe that the riots in Koregaon Bhima and nearby villages on January 1 were triggered by a dispute over the tomb of Govind (Mahar) Gaikwad at neighbouring Vadhu Budruk village on December 29.