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How dalit resistance gained momentum in Maharashtra
The year for Maharashtra, where BJP CM Devendra Fadnavis is in his debut stint, started with strong resistance from dalit organisations, beating back local right-wing outfits and bringing the state capital to a sudden halt. Here is a look at the locations of the stir, symbolic of the tensions between communities as attempts are made to redraw caste alliances.
1. Vadhu Budruk
The story
Govind Gaikwad belonged to the Mahar community; he believed to have performed the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji, son of Maratha icon Chhatrapati Shivaji.
Aurangzeb killed Sambhaji and none dared to perform his last rites fearing the Mughal king's wrath.
The politics
Tension has simmered since the last few years with right-wingers running a campaign that Sambhaji's rites were performed by Marathas and not a Mahar.
Dec 28, 2017: A shed & information board near Gaikwad's tombstone vandalised in village Vadhu Budruk
Dec 29: Dalits file cases against Marathas
Dec 30: Netas of both communities compromise. Dalits to withdraw cases, Marathas to reinstate board near Gaikwad's samadhi
2. Pune
Dec 31: Conference organised at Shaniwar Wada by dalit outfits and Maratha body Sambhaji Brigade that moots an alliance of dalits, Marathas, Muslims.
3. Koregaon Bhima
The story
In the battle between Peshwas and the British at Koregaon on river Bhima's banks on January 1, 1818, Mahars — who saw Peshwas as oppressors — fought for the British, who built an obelisk as a memorial. Annual celebrations have been held here after B R Ambedkar's visit in 1927.
The politics
Two versions to the story.
Dalits and a section of Marathas see the battle as the end of "Brahmanical oppression". The Hindu-right sees it as the end of Hindu rule.
Jan 1, 2018: dalits gather for 200th anniversary celebration of Koregaon-Bhima battle.
A few villagers call a bandh. Stone-pelting starts, followed by arson. One Maratha dies.
4. Mumbai
January 2: Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar calls for bandh to protest attack on dalits, names Sambhaji Bhide (84) and Milind Ekbote (56) as instigators. Bhide had led the stir against movie Jodha Akbar, Ekbote has been a BJP/ Shiv Sena corporator FIR lodged against the two on January 3.
Jan 3: Massive protests by dalits turn violent. 30 cops injured. City brought to a halt.
5. Kolhapur
The story
In 1902, Kolhapur's ruler and Shivaji's descendant, Shahu Maharaj, offered dalits reservation in education and service.
A first of its kind, this was an enduring symbol of dalit-Maratha amity.
The politics
Dalits and Marathas have grown apart over the last few decades with growing right-wing presence. Shiv Sena and BJP have banked on Maratha netas brought in from Sharad Pawar's NCP and Congress.
Jan 3: Shiv Sena MLA Rajesh Kshirsagar leads a mob opposing bandh.
6. Aurangabad
The story
Marathwada region's main city has significant dalit and Muslim populations. Shiv Sena made inroads after violence over the re-naming of Marathwada University after Dr B R Ambedkar.
The Maratha Seva Sangh and its youth wing Sambhaji Brigade have been trying to prop up a new alliance comprising dalits, Marathas and Muslims. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimee has a strong base in the city.
The politics
Shiv Sena netas have built their political fortunes rabblerousing against Muslims and dalits here.
Jan 3: Internet suspended
A few Maratha groups support the bandh, as do the Muslims.
7. Sangli
The politics
Once known as the birthplace of Marathi theatre; Sangli today is a divided town. Sambhaji Bhide's outfit has deep roots here and enjoys support of all parties.
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