It pains to see parts of Maharashtra up in flames as the commemoration of British-Mahar force’s victory over Peshwas 200 years ago turned violent on 2 January, with the conflagration continuing today. Denials by the organisers of the Bhima-Koregaon event notwithstanding, eyewitnesses say the crowd turned violent, incited by a provocative speech of Gujarat’s Dalit leader-turned-Congress ally Jignesh Mevani and others including the communist, anti-India student from Jawaharlal Nehru University Umar Khalid. If this account is false and the activists have nothing to hide, it beats reason why the mobsters would attack not only journalists but also passers-by who are attempting to shoot the goings-on using their camera phones. While सिर्फ़ News is emphatically anti-caste, the silence of the leaders of the agitated class of people must be questioned. If a section of the Vaishya community could disagree with the demonstrations against foreign direct investment in retail, if a section of Patels could take exception to the Patidar agitation led by Hardik Patel, if many Jats can state they do not support the demand for reservations for their caste, if a section of Rajputs could distance themselves from the Karni Sena that is objecting to the film Padmavati, why is no Dalit leader, at least among allies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party or affiliated to the Sangh Parivar, condemning the Maharashtra violence? The maximum one has heard from them over the past two days is that this is an informal launch of the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign by the opposition led by the Indian National Congress. This is rationalising the situation rather than deploring it. The State’s chief minister should not be spared for taking inadequate measures either; clearly, when the attendance at the annual event swelled this year unusually from a few thousands to a few hundred thousands, deploying a mere six companies of policemen — which is what Devendra Fadnavis has claimed — was not enough to tackle an eventuality. While Hindus, his core constituency, are a house divided, the chief executive of the State, along with his wife, was busy exploiting Christmas photo-opportunities.
However, from the broadest perspective possible, the blame finally lies on the upper caste Hindus, much as they might appear today to be at the receiving end of this caste violence. It is unfortunate for this nation that, even in this day and age, Indians continue to discriminate on the basis of a downright unscientific classification of humanity. Maharashtra certainly is among the provinces that should have addressed the issue in right earnest about a century ago, especially since this is the State of a visionary, the forthright Bhimrao Ambedkar. Despite all the persecution he had to bear with, when Babasaheb stayed loyal to the culture of this land by refusing to embrace any religion of the West Asian deserts, eventually settling for a religion of the Indian jungles, Buddhism, it was a final warning to Hindus to put their house in order or face conversions of a section to more hostile faiths. Alas, people remain vain about being born in certain families, and the scourge runs so deep that it makes Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras and even sub-castes unduly proud of their respective archaic clans. The political opportunists, who couldn’t care less about the nation’s devastation, see a great scope of cultivating and exploiting anger in this scenario. Formidable marketing brains that they are, they devise ways to incentivise the fifth columnists through funding via non-government organisations, political placements and corporate obligations. The intellectually challenged Hindu right, in contrast, appeals for sacrifice for greater causes, a strategy that did not work even in the Mahabharata where Duryodhana buys the loyalty of Karna for life by offering the latter the kingdom of Anga. One wonders at times, therefore, what kind of proud Hindus these are who draw no vital lesson from their itihasa.
At this critical juncture, one has to look up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for deliverance. Paying glowing tributes to Ambedkar, making a Dalit, Ram Nath Kovind, the President and appointing several members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes in the government and his party have clearly not been enough to end the alienation. Whether or not any yojana of his government succeeds, it is undeniable that the people still respond positively to Modi’s appeals. He must use his foreordination to address the nation and emotionally plead for national unity. The state provision of rewarding inter-caste couples must be enhanced and announced from the rooftops. The outreach programme, as witnessed before Uttar Pradesh elections, should become so obvious that the machinations of the comrades of a fake Dalit like Rohith Vemula and rabble rousing by closet Maoist student unions of JNU turn laughable. One is sure Modi will do more to fill the countrymen with nationalistic fervour, not all of which should be stated in writing.