In an incident that once again showed the gruesome nature of caste, on the 15th of April, during the Ramnavami procession, in the village Vivre Budruk, falling under Raver taluka in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, a mob of 70 people attacked Dalits, pelted stones and burnt some houses. 1 person died and 20 were injured - that includes women and children. Cases under SC/ST Atrocity Act have been filed against 69 people. In retaliation, false cases of robbery have been filed against 20 Dalits. The situation is tense in the village.
On the 15th of April 2016, Friday, at around 8 pm in Vivre Budruk village, the heinous incidence of stone pelting and burning of Buddhist huts took place. There was a procession on occasion of Ramanavami - this procession started from the Sri Ram square in the village and reached the end of the village. At the end of the village, there is a Buddhavada (place where the untouchables who had converted to Buddhism stay, apart from the rest of the village). 14th of April was Dr.Ambedkar's 125th Birth anniversary and therefore his statue had been decorated.
Without any provocation, the processionists, almost seventy in number– all allegedly from the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), deliberately pulled down the blue flags with Ashok Chakra and Buddhist flags and tried burning those. Hearing about this, some of the villagers went to ask these miscreants on why they dared to do so with Dhamma & Dhammachakra flags. In response, the people who had committed this crime started abusing the villagers with casteist slurs. The villagers tried their best to resolve the matter then and there itself, but when the procession went around 50 feet ahead they started pelting stones on the Baudhhavada rapidly. They (rioters) tried to burn Dr.Ambedkar's statue by pouring kerosene on it! But the people from Baudhhavadi fought with them and pushed them back from Dr.Ambedkar's statue, according the people who were injured while doing so.
After this, the rioters started beating the Buddhavada villagers with kicks and punches, these people were already injured because of sudden unexpected stone pelting. Many people somehow managed to run from that place to save their lives. But the motorcycle, Tempo Traveller, pan shop and tractor which were near the Bauddhavadi were burnt by the people in the Ramnavami procession. It is evident that this was a pre-planned activity. The rioters had come with bricks, stones, kerosene and had vacated their houses a day before.
The rioters did not even allow the fire brigade to douse the fire, when it rushed to the spot. The firemen were also beaten up and the fire engine vandalized. The firemen are also getting treatment along with the villagers in the village hospital. The people who are injured have informed that the rioters belong to BJP and this seemed to be very preplanned activity by them. The rioters are believed to be primarily from the communities of Marathas, Kunbis, Malis, Leva Patidars.
In this gruesome incident, unfortunately one person, named Mr.Bharat Gangaram Gadhe, age 38, passed away due to panic attack.
On the day of the attack, police cases were filed on the Ramnavami rioters. The rioters filed a counter complaint the next day on false charges of robbery of about INR 3 lacs. They specifically filed complaint against the Dalits working in Government jobs (working as Teachers), so that their livelihoods are impacted.
The seat of the Sarpanch fell under the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. 6 months back, the village had an SC individual as a Sarpanch. This hadn't gone down well with the other caste communities in the village and there were several incidents of caste discrimination in the past few months.
Around 3 months back, there was a proposal to rename the main entrance gate of the village after Dr.Ambedkar. But the Manuwadi people around protested and managed to change the name and have instead, the names of Sardar Patel, Mahatma Phule, APj Abdul Kalam, Shivaji, Dr.Ambedkar,etc. This hasn't gone down well with the SC community as they feel it is a dilution and compromise
The Non-Dalits were aware about Ambedkar birth anniversary celebrations. The locked their own houses and went away on 14th of April. They dug up the drains in the village and piled the dirt on the road so that the Ambedkar Jayanti procession is hampered.
1. Cases against 69 of the rioters have been registered under SC/ST Atrocity Act..69 of them were arrested (and some are absconding) but have now been released on anticipatory bail. Apart from SC/ST Atrocity Act, the rioters have been booked under Section 307.
2. 31 of the Scheduled Caste people have been booked under charges of robbery and theft. It was falsely alleged that, they went to a house of a woman and robbed her of her Mangalsutra and cash worth INR 30000 and then another theft of INR 2,30,000 and an idol of God. 8 people have been arrested from the SC community. They are currently under 4 days of Police custody. 4 people got the anticipatory bail before arrest.
3. Currently, everybody is undergoing private treatment; 8 people were in Hospital initially.
4. The local MLA and MP (from BJP) came and met both the parties. They have indirectly requested both parties to withdraw the cases and only keep the cases alive of select people that were involved in violence. This hasn't gone down well with the SC community as they are of the firm opinion that they have done nothing wrong and that all violence has been done by the BJP people. One of the main culprits is an office bearer of BJP. The Police are currently acting on a neutral front.
5. The Scheduled Caste detainees have got bail.
6. Expectations and support from the impacted people: News to be spread and follow-up with the local authorities so that the culprits would be brought to justice. The innocent Dalits who had absconded due to fear of arrest are impacted financially as they were unable to go to work for a long time. There are 4 lawyers who are helping out- all from the SC community.
7. Some political parties like RPI and organisations like Bharat Mukti Morcha have come. Advocate Prakash Ambedkar is expected to visit in the next few days.
8. 3 of the police officers have been transferred and the new officer assigned is supposedly not very friendly and is trying to raise bureaucratic hassles.
The details of the officers handling are– Police Inspector Bhujbal, Nibhora police station 9823511660, Tehsildar –Mr. KundanAhire - 9850091059
Vinay Shende is currently working as Senior Manager-HR in Johnson & Johnson and is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences.