The state of Maharashtra has been seething under a situation of great turmoil, starting the new year. A mob, comprising largely the Maratha community, clashed with lakhs of Dalits, who gathered in the city to attend an event commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima on January 1, following which one person was killed and several injured. Following this, the Mumbai Police detained over a 100 people at different locations in the city after Dalit groups sought action against those who were involved in the violence in Pune the day before. A quick trawl across the Internet, especially Twitter, showed people taking sides — while some blamed the government for not taking proper action, some called out the “casteist mentality” of the society, and others blamed the Dalit community for the riots.
Meanwhile, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar said on January 2 (Tuesday), “The judicial inquiry ordered by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is not acceptable to us. The government should request to the 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.” He also demanded that the inquiry be conducted by a non-Dalit judge.
Netizens raised concerns over how there was not enough noise made when 14 people were killed in the Kamala Mills fire tragedy. Amidst ruing over how this was a bad start to 2018, many even asked the government to “wake up”.
Also, it’s ironic that for the death of one person people are burning shops, whereas for the death of 14 ppl in a fire no one even raised an eyebrow. Does being rich mean no value for lives? #Chembur #mumbaibandh
— Ush (@Masala_soda) January 2, 2018
— Nk Asad (@asad4u88) January 2, 2018
But most Internet posts were about people, seemingly concerned over travelling to their destination, asking what routes will be safer to opt for. Many reminded the protesters that there are better ways to resolve matters than vandalising and “causing chaos”.
— naitik savla (@nsavla7856) January 2, 2018
So #Mumbai begins the #NewYear2018 with a riot and damaging public property … you know there is ALWAYS a better to resolve things instead of causing chaos and promoting violence !! ??#BhimaKoregaonViolence
— Hema (@hemalatha2906) January 2, 2018
— iCircuit™ (@ishanc) January 2, 2018
Twitter users hoped for the day when politics based on division of people based on caste, religion, sex and other factors would end.
#BhimaKoregaonViolence #MaharashtraCasteClash That helpless and frustrated feeling of waiting for the day when divisive politics will end… Let there be peace, as infighting and damaging public property will not benefit anyone..
— Mdr (@Mdr_b) January 2, 2018
#MahaCasteClash,#BhimaKoregaonViolence India has started the new year on a disappointing note.I hope and pray these unfortunate incidents of caste clashes does not continue till 2019 elections. People and both state and central government should be extra cautions to the designs
— Apoorva Saxena (@apoorvatu) January 2, 2018
Many supported the Dalits’ cause and deemed those opposing them as “casteist hypocrites”. “We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, caste divided us and wealth classified us,” wrote a Twitter user.
— P! (@daru_desi_) January 2, 2018
— Shahzan (@ShahzanBinAli) January 2, 2018
— Bipasha patil (@BipashaPatil) January 2, 2018
— Sharanya (@TheTinyWoman) January 2, 2018
So, the new year in India has started with some stupid agitation between 2 castes in Pune. And hopefully many more to come. We all just love to fight in the name of our god, caste & history. No matter what year we live in.
— $@ID@$ (@saidasnaik) January 2, 2018
— shraddha pawar ?? (@shraddha_pawar5) January 2, 2018
— Imran Solanki (@imransolanki313) January 2, 2018
Caste is reality of society and we had to learn to live with each other with love and peace while respecting each other’s sentiments
— Arvind Vajpeyi (@arvind_vajpeyi) January 2, 2018
According to a report by The Indian Express, the main event at the Jay-stambh (victory memorial) at Bhima Koregaon was peaceful except for the clashes that were reported from the neighbouring villages. The police said that more than 5 lakh people had assembled to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bhima battle in which Peshawas were defeated by British forces. They march to the Jaystambh on January 1 each year and there have been no records of any violence previously.