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Bhima-Koregaon clash: There is hegemonic appropriation, or rather misappropriation, of the concept of nationalism

By Adv Masood Peshimam
There is always the good narrative dominantly favoring virtues of Peshwai Raj but battle lines drawn at Bhima Koregaon between Britishers and Marathas with the significant inclusion of Mahar regiment create an exception. Sometimes there is the historical twist to display glass as diamond. The Bhima-Koregaon clash between Britishers and Marathas is not seen in the context of British-Maratha war. It is the culmination of the outburst of the Dalit anger against the tyranny unleased over the Dalits or the backward caste people. The Britishers created the Mahar regiment from the people who suffered worsening plight at the hands of Peshwa or the prevailing socio economic conditions. The Dalits suffered the worst suppression and oppression. The Britishers were ready to take the advantage of the exacerbated relations between Marathas and the Dalits or the Mahars.
The battle at Bhima-koregaon was fought between the Britishers & the Marathas in which Marathas suffered the humiliating defeat. To commemorate the battle against the Peshwa fought 200 years ago a large chunk of Dalits congregated at Bhima Koregaon. Certain eyebrows were raised by certain quarters like paying respect to the slain Dalit soldiers fighting for the Britishers.
It is said that the commemoration of the victory of the Dalits 200 years back is not in tune with the ingredients of nationalism. However, nationalism itself has become subjective and there is hegemonic appropriation or rather misappropriation of the concept of nationalism. It is in the name of nationalism the cultural arrogance of the dominant communities is asserted at the cost of the cultural aspirations of the people remaining on the weakest politico-economic turf.
Those raising eyebrows against the commemoration of the historic Bhima-Koregaon battle are expected to kindly note that Prime Minister Modi while visiting France had paid respect to the Slain Indian soldiers who fought with the British army. There are other parallels in other countries close to such incident involving paying respect to the slain Indian soldiers defending the British interest. Such double standards are all the more manifest when Narendra Modi who refused to wear Muslim skull cap paid respectful visit to the Masjid in Dubai.
It is not out of context to say that Gandhiji who initiated the Khilafat movement with the Ali brothers offered co-operation to the Britishers in the 2nd world war with a view to defeat and Nazism and fascism, though Britain was damaging the Turkish interest.
The British promised to give freedom in exchange of co-operation but retracted later which made Gandhiji to announce the Quit India Movement in 1942.
Gandhiji offered solace and relief to the Dalit community over its deep predicament at the hands of high caste people and all the high caste people cannot be blamed for this.
Mulk Raj Anand, the great novelist touched upon the efforts of Gandhiji in applying soothing balm over the oppressed and suppressed backward community in his legendary novel “The Untouchable”. Mulk Raj Anand painted the predicament of a Dalit boy who suffered all the atrocities and humiliations whose survival was at stake with his injured pride. Those offering relief to that victimized Dalit boy also threw the eatables which got mixed up with the dirt and refuse making the eatable difficult to eat. The money was also thrown at him in such an insulting manner which explained the deep sense of deprivation. The relief offered to the low caste boy tantamount to the denial of relief thus aggravating his plight.
It is the plethora of such incidents which fans the rise of aspiration to assert the identity of the Dalits in the wake of sharpening socio-political conflict.
Hence given the complexities and the need of the situation there was no reason to disturb the gathering of the Dalits to mark the historical event of 200 years earlier.
It is the alleged rabble rousing of the hotheads like Sambhaji Bhide of Samast Hindu Aghadi and Milind Ekbote of the Shiv Pratishtan Hindustan which created all the more turmoil. There were criminal complaints filed against the duo but no arrest has been made so far. It appears that the government is looking the other way when there is the violation of law by high and mighty.
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar demanded the arrest of duo without any further loss of time combating the contention that Bhide and Ekbote were not present on the site.
Ambedkar said, the Supreme Court while hearing the Mumbai blast case has said that even if Yakub Memon was not present at the incident site he knew conspiracy. Similarly, these two (Bhide and Ekbote), even if not in Pune, knew of the plan and were inciting the mob. Whether Yakub Memon was present at the incident site or not is a different matter what is significant to note is the feeling in some quarters that he had paid the price for his audacity in asking as to why no punishment was meted out to those who with all the impunity were fanning the flames in the worst ever communal violence in Mumbai in the wake of demolition of Babri Masjid.
Another unfortunate aspect of the whole episode is that while Yakub Memon was hanged to death those who inflamed the communal fire were left scot free and so far went unpunished. Instead the police officials indicted by Sri Krishna Commission received all the promotions in the Congress Government.
Veteran journalist Jyoti Punwani rendered great services to the cause of justice while deposing before the Sri Krishna Commission. Kudos and appreciation to Punwani!
With reference to Koregaon Bhima violence the blame is equally laid on the two firebrands like Jignesh Mewani and Umar Khalid. Both were not present on the site to ignite the divisive caste fire. Besides, these duo have no potential to provoke the Dalits to allegedly flex their muscles. The eruption of violence in the wake of Bhima Koregaon clash is the case of mob psychology. Mob many a time loses the control and does not know the issue to the depth.
There was unprecedented escalation of violence in Maharashtra in the wake of alleged attack over the gathering of the Dalits in Bhima-Koregaon to celebrate the historical event.
While Ekbote and Bhide despite their names figuring in the FIR are emboldened to talk to the media there is the combing operation against the Dalits. Advocate Anand Khanderao and Advocate Kakde of Kalyan Court and P.D. Dongre, a Dalit leader strongly condemned the intensity and high handedness of the combing operation against the innocent Dalits.
Prakash Ambedkar’s strong protest against the absence of arrest of Ekbote and Bhide for fueling communal tension against Dalits did not produce the result as they are still at large.
Concerning Umar Khalid he is blamed for espousing the cause of freedom of Kashmir which he has denied constantly. He has raised the gross Human right violation in Kashmir. There is no harm in condemning the increasing human right violation in Kashmir while condemning and deploring the scourge of terrorism.
Umar Khalid while leading the student and other liberal movements declared himself as an atheist. Umar Khalid has got every right to disown his religion but where is the need to spread the impression to that effect. Is it to gain credibility? There were a lot of Muslims who had disowned Islam but never declared so. They became Muslims after their death like Khawaja Ahmad Abbas and Kaifi Azmi. Their relatives declared them Muslim after their death for burial in Quabristan or cemetery.
Khawaja Ahmad Abbas, a veteran Journalist who introduced legendary super star Amitabh Bachchan to Bollywood used to write on the last page of Blitz maintaining distance from Islam or the Muslim cause. There was the breed of progressive writers and poets like Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Nida Fazli, Majrooh, Krishna Chand and the rest who were known to have denied to swear allegiance to their faith.
Umar Khalid despite his religiously irreligious pronouncement is treated as Muslim in political terms and his troubles with the Hindutva or communal forces would not remain undiminished with his atheist pronouncements.
Ramdas Athawle, the Dalit leader while defending Jignesh Mewani does not refer to Umar Khalid.
What is no less significant to note that there has emerged a Dalit group which has gone in favour of Bhide and Ekbote. Any communal stance or flavor to the Dalit movement of whatever group would seriously weaken the Dalit cause or the cause of the oppressed or suppressed people irrespective of any consideration of caste or creed.
There is the dwelling or basti of sizeable number of Dalits alongside Muslims and Marathas at Waldhuni, kalyan in Maharashtra living in harmony and love for generations together. An old rikshawala Hussain Shaikh told me that this basti or dwelling is never witness to the communal violence since 1947. He drew my attention to this phenomena with all the pleasure and glee in the small gulli or lane plying the rikshaw.
His saner and prudent words are symbolic of the need to forge unity of the untouchables irrespective of caste and creed with the untouchability of bigotry and narrow mindedness.

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