Violent clashes have erupted in Maharashtra. Widespread unrest has engulfed the entire state. The rioters are running berserk. Vehicles have been set ablaze, public property has been damaged beyond repair, and above everything else, normal life has been crippled.
It all started on the new year’s day when countless Dalits had gathered at Koregaon Bhima to mark the bicentenary of the battle between the British and the Peshwas (the Anglo-Maratha War), in which the Dalits sided with the British Raj. With countless people gathering at a point, the government of the State of Maharashtra needed to take all the precautionary measures. Security forces should have deployed. The extent of damage incurred could have been minimized had the state govt. taken adequate precautionary measures beforehand. But sadly, the govt’s inability to tackle the situation has resulted in widespread chaos and disorder.
Well, I guess all of us have read countless news stories and reports on the ever-so-serious problem of public unrest in India. The chain of events is quite common whenever unrests or riots breakout. The riots are ignited by a bunch of anti-social b*stards who pose a serious threat to public order and peace. The riots then spread across the entire region and end up consuming the lives of innocent people. National plans are formulated, inquiries are conducted, and reports are submitted, but the cycle of unrest keeps moving relentlessly, completely untouched by all the efforts that are made to curtail it.
The fact of the matter is, the bicentenary commemoration and the corresponding riots and violent protests are nothing but a manipulation of socio-political scenarios. On one hand, the Dalits view it as a landmark event where the lower-caste Mahars fought alongside the company forces against a formidable Peshwa army. On the other hand, several right-wing historians view it as a battle between our erstwhile colonial masters and the local people. Each year, Koregaon Bhima is visited by countless Dalits who pay their respects to the soldiers who were killed during the battle. It is also an event that reaffirms their identity as a Dalit. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar also visited the spot back in the 1920’s.
Dalits all across the country are coming together. During the bicentenary celebrations, the President of the Bhim Army Vinay Ratan Singh was present along with several other prominent leaders. The Maratha agitation demanding reservations in the public sector also took the entire country by storm.
It is a given fact that the rising unrest among several marginalized communities in India is being fuelled because of unfulfilled aspirations and discrimination. The number of job opportunities created is far less than the number of aspirants. Consequently, the communities are coming together in the hope that collective bargaining would yield the desired results. The quota system has failed miserably to solve the problem of unemployment in the country. What we require today is a channelized focus on growth wherein all communities have an equal say and an equal right to opportunities.