Other States

‘RSS-BJP represent the new Peshwai mentality’

Common front:  Jignesh Mevani, Radhika Vemula and others at the conference in Pune on Sunday.

Common front: Jignesh Mevani, Radhika Vemula and others at the conference in Pune on Sunday.

Saying that the historic 1818 battle of Bhima-Koregaon represented a watershed moment for the Dalit community in their struggle against caste prejudices, newly elected Gujarat Assembly legislator Jignesh Mevani on Sunday said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governmentrepresented a ‘neo-Peshwai’ mentality.

Mr. Mevani was among several notable progressive speakers who addressed a humongous congregation at the Elgaar Parishad at the historic Shaniwarwada to commemorate the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon of January 1, 1818. As many as 500 soldiers of the untouchable Mahar community had fought alongside the English to defeat the forces of Peshwa Bajirao II in the battle.

Lashing out against regional parochialism, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student activist Umer Khalid “apologised” for not delivering his address in Marathi. “Ours is not the xenophobic credo of the ‘Marathi Manoos’ but a celebration of plurality and diversity … forces are aware that the battle of ideas cannot be won by words and hence are resorting to bullets,” said Mr. Khalid.

Relevance today

Commenting on the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Communist leader Govind Pansare, scholar M.M. Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh, Mr. Khalid said the Bhima-Koregaon bicentenary was not merely a commemoration of the struggle of the Mahar community against the Brahminical Peshwa rule, but had modern-day echoes in the ongoing fight of progressives against Hindutva forces.

Radhika Vemula, the mother of the late research scholar Rohith Vemula, said, “The Bhima-Koregaon battle was a defining moment for the Dalit community. Today, the BJP government represents the ‘neo-Peshwai’ mentality … it is this mentality and their agents, be it ministers or legislators, who conspired to killed my son and persecute Dalit scholars like him.” Ms. Vemula said that people must take inspiration from the 1818 battle and form a joint front of progressives to combat the ‘new Peshwai tyranny’.

Earlier, following much controversy over the event, the police eventually granted permission to organisers with several caveats, specifying that the programme would not include objectionable slogans, posters, banners or feature acts that would “hurt sentiments of members of any caste or religion”. The event had met with considerable opposition from Hindu outfits and pro-Brahmin groups.

Groups from across State

Thousands of people from more than 250 progressive social outfits, including several left-leaning, Ambedkarite groups across Maharashtra, participated in the event which was symbolically held at the Shaniwarwada fort, the erstwhile seat of Peshwa power.

For Dalit activists and progressives, the narrative of the Bhima-Koregaon battle is emblematic in the ongoing struggle against caste oppression and Brahminical domination.

The six-hour event, which began at 2 p.m., featured cultural programmes by groups like the Kabir Kala Manch.

Later in the evening, the speakers joined lakhs from the Dalit community to visit the Koregaon Ranstambh (victory pillar), a memorial dedicated to the battle in the village of Bhima-Koregaon, 30 km from the city.


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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 6:12:36 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rss-bjp-represent-the-new-peshwai-mentality/article22339743.ece