ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Of Old and New Peshwai

Anti-Hindutva Dalit mobilisation at Bhima Koregaon goads upper castes into violence.


The bicentenary commemoration of the battle at Bhima Koregaon on 1 January 2018 in Pune district, Maharashtra was marred by dispersed but organised attacks on Dalit participants who had congregated from all over the state. In response, an enraged Dalit community led protests against the attacks in city centres across Maharashtra. The key to these attacks seems to lie in the distinct anti-Hindutva theme underlying the commemoration, which was presided over by Dalit and minority leaders who have become the faces of dissent against dominant right-wing forces today.

The battle of 1818 between the British imperial army and the Peshwa regime of the day at Bhima Koregaon is upheld as a watershed moment in Dalit history. The victory of the colonial forces was secured by a predominantly Mahar battalion, heralding the end of the Brahmanical Peshwa rule. This cultural memory was revitalised by B R Ambedkar himself, as a symbol of Dalit valour and victory over oppressive forces. Subsequently, the event became part of a longer list of milestones and anniversaries celebrated annually as part of Ambedkarite counterculture—in opposition to and departure from caste-Hindu culture. Some milestones in the months of December and January include Ambedkar’s death anniversary on 6 December wherein Dalits congregate in thousands at ­Chaityabhoomi, Mumbai to pay homage to their leader; Ambedkar’s burning of the Manusmriti on 25 December (celebrated as Bharatiya Stree Mukti Divas by Dalit–Bahujan feminists); anniversary of the victory at Bhima Koregaon on 1 January (celebrated by congregating at Koregaon village in Pune, the site of the battle); the birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule (also celebrated as teacher’s day) on 3 January; and Republic Day on 26 January when India adopted the Constitution drafted by Ambedkar. Participation in these events has harnessed the formation and internalisation of an Ambedkarite identity and consciousness among Dalits in the state.

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Updated On : 9th Jan, 2018


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