Caste, Class Polity Boils Maharashtra


Unrest which is more class-based and is being channelized through the caste polarization

By Prabhakr Kulkarni

The assault on Dalits’ congregation at Bhima Koregaon at Pune and subsequent disturbances at Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra have brought on surface the caste politics as also the politics of the oppressed Dalits who are now more aggressive than previous demonstrations. While the Republic Party of India led by Prakash Ambedkar has been vocal for inquiry and action, the other faction led by Ramdas Athavale is in tune but not as anti-government as Ambedkar has been campaigning. But Ambedkar has come at the forefront in the Dalit politics and may join hands with the Congress and left parties who are creating a force against the BJP in the state and national politics.

The Brahmin and non-Brahmin politics which is latent and being exploited by Maratha leaders for political gain is an undercurrent of the present crisis. But, the Maratha unrest and their jobless youths coming out for reservation as also with demand to modify the strict Dalit-oriented Atrocity Act, which is causing harassment, has been a bone of contention between Marathas and Dalits.

The third force of Hindu organizations like Shiv Pratishtan of Sambhaji Bhide and Hindu Ekta Parishad led by Milind Ekbote has been a sort of catalytic agent trying to encompass all under the Hindutva ideology and politically favoring the BJP-RSS politics in the state and at the national level. They are made targets by the RPI leader Prakash Ambedkar who has alleged that the two had instigated the disturbance at Bhima Koregaon and they should be booked under the charge. Accordingly an FIR is recorded against them.

Another dimension to the scene is presence of Gujarat Dalit youth leader Jignesh Mevani the Congress backed MLA and JNU student leader Umar Khalid who were present at the beginning of the celebrations on 30th December at Pune and are alleged to have made instigating speeches creating unrest among the Dalits. An FIR is recorded against both.

Mevani has reportedly made a statement that he came to Maharashtra to topple down ‘Peshavai’ (Brahmin ruler-ship) in Maharashtra. This indicates discontent against the BJP’s ruling which is a target of both the Congress and the NCP. In the post-disturbances appeal, the NCP leader Sharad Pawar has stated that the Congress and NCP should join hands for better situation in the state and appealed people to let bygone be bygone and establish the peaceful atmosphere for socioeconomic development. This may well be interpreted as a hidden agenda to topple down the BJP’s rule which is now targeted by both the Marathas and Dalits.

The repercussion of this on national politics is that the youth campaigner like Mevani and Khalid and Kanhiyya Kumar who are appealing youths in all class segments are openly against the BJP and Modi-Shaha duo and are being backed by the Congress strategists. The news that Mevani is invited by the West Bangal chief minister Mamta Banarjee is another indicator that the situation is being strategically handled by anti-Modi strategy. The Communists who backed ‘Bandh’ in Maharashtra have joined with the anti-Modi force being formulated in this process.

Role of Shivsena in this situation is as usual against the BJP but criticizing the Maratha’s and Dalit’s anti-Brahmin stance. When the matter came up in parliament, the Shivsena MP Sanjay Raut commented that the BJP government handled the situation calmly but could have avoided the disturbances. He commented against the BJP government’s strategy to suppress Shivsena for its expansion. Thus the BJP is trying to suppress its ally in government the Shivsena for its own policy to increase its base in state politics even at the cost of Shivsena. On the other side the NCP wants to strengthen the alliance with the Congress to save itself from the potential crisis and arrests of its leader, Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare. But whether the Congress will come closer to the NCP with its deceptive tactics and demand for more or equal strength in seat sharing during elections is a matter of uncertainty.

The basic point is the unrest which is more class-based and is being channelized through the caste polarization. Jobless youths in lower strata of society in almost all caste segments are the potential campaigners in coming socio-political atmosphere. Each caste including even the minority Brahmins, Jains, Muslims or Lingayats have their inner problems of class discontent as youths in these caste are equally suffering for want of better prospects either in employment or in self-employment avenues. The economic structure and the system favoring only the big and powerful in the politically aligned constituents has been a source of discontent among those who are neglected and these are the neglected classes. If the ruling BJP at the Union and state government fails to change the structure and its new policy programs in favor of betterment of those who are neglected irrespective of their castes, the growing discontent may well be exploited by the ambitious political parties in both the regional and national politics.