Bhima Koregoan – The Latest Battlefield Of Dalit Resistance

Bhima Koregoan

The incidences of Bhima Koregoan have come up as yet another battleground of Dalits’ liberation movement against a Hindutva fascist state run by caste system. The incidences and the videos have been rolling around is just shocking. The symbol of yester-century’s valiant and brave battle and victory over the atrocious ruling Peshwas by a small unit of 500 Dalits (Mahar’s), Muslims and others is certainly noteworthy in history, despite the fact that it was a political battle between the British and Peshwas. For the Mahars it is a symbol of victory over the Casteist lords.

There can be different opinion on the construct of caste, power contest and war in the context of Bhima Koregoan battle. All wars in the history have been to attain power between two or more powerful ends; the more powerful ones wins. Here it was between the British and the Peshwas (or Marathas). However, Mahars’ participation in the battle, the hard work, military brilliance and martyrdom had a meaning that it was an opportunity to express their anger against their hitherto oppressors. So they did it. Perhaps there was not much intellectual thought during the battle to entirely get rid of caste oppression through this war. Nor that one could find any military-styled battle by Dalits against caste lords in any part of India before or after that. This was perhaps the lone incident where Dalits got an opportunity to take arms in an organised manner against their caste lords. Mahars were all prepared for this. All that they needed was an appropriate favourable circumstance. The soldiers religiously following the commands of their higher British authorities. Thus, it cannot be classified as a classical battle between the Mahars and Marathas either. Nor that the status of Mahars had any magical shift after the battle. Therefore idealising the 200-year old war as a battle for liberation from caste clutches would be a misinterpretation of the facts. Still it connects with some level of pride for the Mahars in Maharashtra.

Whatsoever the interpretation of the battle may be, this particular incident has a meaning today. In recent years starting from the organised attack on Dalits in Dharmapuri to Una, the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula to the conquest at Belgaum, incidences of Saharanpur to the arrest and torture of Chandrasekhar Rawan, the repression of Bhim Sena to Chamar Army and now Bhima Koregaon incident and many more unknown and unreported incidences are all symbols of Hindutva resistance. The rape and killings of Mamta Khandekar in Chhattisgarh, Jisha in Kerala, Delta Meghwal in Rajasthan, and institution murder of many Dalit students in Indian universities are much potential symbols of the same. There are other parallel means rigorously applied such as beef ban, anti-cow slaughter laws, love jihad, saffronisation of education, insertion of Gita in school and university curriculum in India, distortion of science and history with mythologies, attack on Christian believers, their institutions, places of worship, functions, consistent attack on Muslims under the aegis of cow trading, beef eating, etc. are all means to instil the ideology of Hindutva cultural nationalism.

A central pillar of the RSS-BJP’s fascist vision for India is that Dalits should permanently remain at the bottom layer of Indian society.  Shamefully in Bhima Koregoan the Brahminical RSS and caste Hindus had shown the world how brutal attacks were let loose on the peaceful visitors to the historic monument leading to deaths and injuries who assembled there. Initially as usual and ironically most national media has reported the attacks on unarmed Dalits. Only a few local media and portals carried some stories. This is much in line with the media strategy of RSS-BJP to keep away any sort of report that goes against the agenda of Hindutva nationalism. It was only through the social media that the world came to know about the enmass attack.

According to Vijay More, who has done his PhD on Koregaon-Bhima battle, ‘this planned attack, executed with precision is driven by idea of squashing Dalit assertion. Brahminical upper castes conveniently forget how what they call “an anti-national celebration of British army’s victory” is for us a mark of our fight for dignity as human beings.’ While viewing some of the videos that flashed through the social media one could see sacks of stones collected across streets mounting to many truck loads, in advance manifesting that the planning for the attack has been for months.

Horrifying caste based oppression and communal attack has been the unique feature of the Brahminical raj in India. In RSS led Modi raj when there is a transformation from hitherto appeasement of the casteist features to widespread instances of naked caste based suppression of Dalits and other oppressed sections, they are forced to resist. When such resistances are sought to be put down using state power everywhere, Dalits come out to resist more powerfully. Instead of addressing their anger, if more oppressive acts are unleashed as with Bhim Sena in UP, Koregaon in Pune etc the caste war is bound to spread challenging the Brahminical order the RSS wants to impose. From the stand of caste annihilation, the resistance and challenge by Dalits to the Hindu Brahminical order symbolises the struggle of Bhima Koregoan.

The gruesome attack on unarmed people signifies the fear and unwillingness of dominant caste Hindus even to imagine the reduction of the power of caste Hindus and some disturbance in the social order under the Hindutva mechanics. Instead of accepting the fact that Brahimincal order has infact enslaved each other under the ambit of caste, they opted to denounce those who assembled in Koregoan as anti-national. Had Babasaheb Ambedkar been alive today, he would have been another of those anti-nationals while the RSS-BJP state would not have a second thought to send him to prison.


* The author is an activist and social scientist living in Chhattisgarh. He has been the founder of Dalit Mukti Morcha and many other similar movements. Currently he is the Convener of Chhattisgarh Nagrik Sanyukt Sangarsh Samiti (CNSSS) as well as the Chief Editor of Journal of People’s Studies. He has been a student of Cultural Anthropology and holds a PhD from Tata Institute of Social Science.

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