BJP controlled Pune Municipal Corporation reaches out to Dalits, sanctions funds for Bhima Koregaon
Dalit intellectuals in Pune are meanwhile questioning why the MVA govt has failed to act against the right-wing mischief mongers and bail out Dalits framed in false cases by the previous BJP govt
Months before the municipal elections, Pune Municipal Corporation has sanctioned Rs. 1 crore for beautification and civic amenities at the Bhima Koregaon War Memorial. Earlier in December the PMC unveiled a statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar in its premises. Both the moves are of course designed to reach out to the sizeable Dalit population in the district.
The Obelisk (victory pillar) at Bhima Koregaon was constructed by the British at Koregaon Bhima to commemorate the victory of Dalit Mahars under the British Army over Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha Empire. Lakhs of Dalits converge at the memorial on January 1 to celebrate the victory of ‘Dalits over Brahmins’. Clashes broke out in 2018 between right-wing activists and Dalits near the memorial. The BJP government then had cracked down on Dalits, arresting several Dalit activists, many of whom are still in jail. No action was taken against right-wing accused like Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote.
Two BJP corporators –Rahul Bhandare and Mahesh Wabale— initiated the move for sanction of funds. “Dalits from all walks of life come to Jai Stambh to offer tributes to the war heroes. Our endeavor is to provide proper civic amenities to the visitors,” they said by way of explanation. The PMC standing committee chairman Hemant Rasne of the BJP and the city BJP President and former BJP MLA Jagdish Mulik echoed the sentiment.
Former deputy Mayor Siddhartha Dhende, a Dalit who represented the Republican Party of India (RPI) points out that Dalits comprise 15 percent of the city’s electorate and BJP is unable to ignore Dalit votes. Dalit activist Rahul Dambale is happy that the significance of Koregaon Bhima is being recognized by political parties. But others complain that BJP was just paying lip service to the Dalits while framing Ambedkarites and Dalit activists in false cases. “The double standards and hypocrisy need to be exposed,” said Amar Salve.
Dalit intellectuals in Pune are meanwhile questioning why the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government has failed to act against the right-wing mischief mongers and bail out Dalits framed in false cases by the previous BJP government.
This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.