Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Wednesday that the present need of the country was development, not caste conflicts. Speaking at an event here, the chief minister also said both within and outside the state, there were forces that were trying to divide Maharashtra on caste lines by creating conflicts out of non-issues. ‘We have always tried to keep Maharashtra away from casteism, but there are people who try to create conflicts out of non-issues,’ Fadnavis said.
The chief minister hoped that the public of Maharashtra would not give importance to such people who were making inflammatory statements regarding the caste violence, wherein one person has died and several have been injured, including police personnel. The violence has also led to destruction of properties worth hundreds of crores across the state, including the financial capital, Mumbai. Tension gripped many parts of Maharashtra after clashes broke out between the Dalits and alleged right-wing groups on Monday during the bicentenary celebration of the Bhima-Koregaon battle near Pune.
In the aftermath, a day-long ‘Maharashtra bandh’ was called by various Dalit and other organisations on Tuesday; however, the bandh was called off later in the day. Nevertheless, Section 144 was imposed in Thane area till midnight of January 4. The protesters even halted the trains at Thane railway station while 15 flights had to be cancelled.
The matter arose out of the right-wing groups’ objection to the observance of ‘Victory Day’ since they considered it to be an anti-national celebration. In the Bhima-Koregaon battle, which was fought between the British East India Company, containing Dalits in its infantry, and the Peshwas, who were upper-caste Brahmins, at Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 1818, the Marathas ultimately withdrew. Since then the lower-caste communities have been viewing it as a symbolic victory over the upper-caste.