On Sunday, 9th October 2016, rumour spread across social media like Whatsapp that a 14 year old Dalit boy molested a minor girl in Talegaon (Nashik district, Maharashtra). It was later reported by the guardian minister of Nashik, Girish Mahajan, that the medical authorities have reported that rape has not occurred, and the issue is under investigation. But inflammatory messages regarding this incident spread beforehand and caused communal tension in some parts of Nashik.
Buddhists were targeted by the caste Marathas to avenge this particular incident. Especially in some parts of Igatpuri, Buddhist residential houses, vehicles were gutted down by the caste rioters. They took swords and entered into the houses of the Buddhist community in Igatpuri and hurled all castiest slurs, beat them and ransacked their property, personal belongings and gutted their vehicles. There was a group of rioters geared with all kinds of sharp knives, swords and some even threw stones on the Buddhist houses. There was also desecration of a statue of Dr B. R. Ambedkar by the caste rioters.
From late afternoon of 9th October, there was road blockage created by the caste rioters on Talegoan road. The caste rioters targeted vehicles having various symbolism of Buddhism like Ashok Chakra, pictures of Buddha, Ambedkar, Blue Flags, and Dhamma Flags. Those vehicles were selectively attacked and gutted down. When local Police force tried to disperse those caste rioters, stones were pelted on the Police force by them. Section 144 was imposed. Nearly 20 vehicles were gutted down on the Nashik-Agra highway. Nearly 20 houses of Buddhist were torched down by the caste rioters. Mostly caste rioters were identified as Marathas. The mobile internet service was totally suspended throughout Nashik. Most of the Buddhist families in Talegaon have left their residences on account of the violence by the caste rioters.
The caste rioter 'Marathas' attacked many Buddhist residents in Sevgedang, Nanded, Wadiwahne, Gonda, Goti, Ambegoda, Shivli, Khandale, and Gondegaon in the Nashik District. Police were totally helpless in protection of the Buddhist minority in the above places. Even the Buddha Vihara (Buddhist temple) and statues of Buddha and Dr B R Ambedkar were not spared by them.
10th October 2016 marked the 60th Anniversary of conversion of Dr B R Ambedkar to Buddhism. Thousands of Buddhists across India celebrate this day as "Dhamma Deeksha Day". Many Buddhists in Nashik visit the ancient historical caves of Trisharmi to pay homage to Buddha. The caste rioters targeted the Buddhist visitors to the caves. They were making huge chants of avenging the 'rape' of the minor Maratha girl. Many of the innocent Buddhists beaten by the caste rioters were taken to Nashik civil hospitals. Most of the atrocities committed on the Buddhists were in front of the local police who didn't act as per law.
The mainstream media didn't pay much attention to these caste riots initiated by the dominant Marathas on the Buddhist minority. The news reached people mainly through many Buddhist and Dalit human rights activists on Facebook.
Sagar Zende wrote on Facebook (10/10/2016 @7.35 pm) as follows:
"The fundamental principle of democracy is freedom of speech (Article 19 Indian Constitution). The violent and armed attack on 4 Buddhist localities (Yes, only Ex- Mahar localities were targeted and not other SCs) in Nashik district yesterday brought the worst situation of law and order in limelight.. Police neither registered a single FIR of Buddhist people nor they have arrested the violent Maratha gangs.. The district administration such as collector, SP etc who are supposed to visit the Buddhist areas within 24 hours didn't perform their lawful duty and thus could not protect the Buddhist people.. Media's role is all the more destructive as instead of highlighting the plight of Buddhist localities they are showing yesterday's clip as today's news and portraying the violent Maratha mob as victims themselves, that's how the media has conspired.. Meanwhile the state government has shut down the internet for the next 2 days, now the question is to whom the state is silencing whether to violent Marathas or victimised Buddhist?? Also there is no consensus of Buddhist people about these attacks... Amongst Buddhist leaders who have organizational network and power are also silent about the whole incidence...In Buddhist circles people are saying that there is also a silent surgical strikes going on Buddhist in Maharashtra.. Now how to stop these attacks on Buddhist and how the democracy and the rule of law to be established are the riddles in front of us just a one day before Vijayadashami day of Great Samrat Ashoka. The experts should guide in this regard...."
Amar Khade is a self-employed engineer by profession and an anti-caste activist by choice.