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Archives for : January2018

Maharashtra lost 63sqkm of forest land in 3 years- #Antigreen Govt

Maharashtra ranked fourth in India for maximum forest land diverted, with 40 proposals sanctioned over three years.

Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times

The forest land lost in the last three years is roughly equivalent to the area of Mumbai’s island city, which is 65sq km (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation data).
The forest land lost in the last three years is roughly equivalent to the area of Mumbai’s island city, which is 65sq km (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation data).(HT File )

Maharashtra lost 6,346 hectares or 63 sq km of forests to non-forestry purposes including mining, between 2014 and 2017, reveals data from the union environment ministry.

The forest land lost in the last three years is roughly equivalent to the area of Mumbai’s island city, which is 65 sq km (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation data).

At the same time, the country lost 62,369 hectares or 623 sq km forest area, roughly the area of six Sanjay Gandhi National Parks spread across 104 sq km.

Maharashtra ranked fourth in India for maximum forest land diverted, with 40 proposals sanctioned over three years. The data was submitted by Mahesh Sharma, minister of state, Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change to the Lok Sabha last week.

“Non-forestry activities including mining have the potential to impact environment and ecological balance. Deforestation for mining may lead to soil erosion, water pollution, and may impact flora and fauna. However, sufficient care is taken to ensure minimum damage to wildlife and the forest ecosystem while granting forest clearances as per the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,” read the statement laid at Lok Sabha by Sharma.

According to the data, 1,060.57 hectare of forest land was diverted for mining purpose over three years in the state. Officials from the state forest department told HT that forest areas had been diverted for the development of transmission lines, railways, national highways, irrigation projects, rehabilitation of villages from core forest areas to fringes.

“There have been very few mining projects approved by us over past three years. It is under the state government’s policy to allow only projects where mines have been dug up or licenses need to be renewed,” said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forest (Mantralaya), state forest department.

According to the state forest department, Maharashtra’s forest cover is 56,645.96 sq km (56.6 lakh hectares).

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Prakash Ambedkar –  Treat Bhide & Ekbote like Yakub Memon


Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar announced the withdrawal of its Maharashtra bandh call on Wednesday evening. The withdrawal was unconditional. Ambedkar though demanded that the Devendra Fadnavis government arrests the masterminds of the attack on those who attended the bi-centenary celebrations of the victory of the Mahar Regiment over the Peshwas at Bhima Koregaon.

“There are two outfits which are behind the violence: Shivraj Pratishthan of Shambhaji Bhide and Hindu Ekta Aghadi of Milind Ekbote. They attacked the people who were on their way to Bhima Koregaon to pay their respects,” Ambedkar said at a press conference.

“There was anger that the attack wasn’t discussed in the media and the Maharashtra government also tried to cover it up. This is why we initiated the movement. This wasn’t just a Dalit movement. It was a movement of 50% people of Maharashtra who are backward. To prevent the anger from turning violent, we organised a Maharashtra Bandh. The Bandh was successful and was conducted peacefully,” he said.

He added that they are withdrawing the Bandh with the assurance that Bhide and Ekbote will be arrested. This will put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a bind as the two are
pro-Hindutva leaders and are critical to the party’s political game plan in Maharashtra.

“The charges that were made against Yakub Memon should be imposed on them SC said he did not plant the bombs but was aware of the conspiracy. Their cases are the same,” he said.

According to Ambedkar the row will have political consequences. “The situation was favourable for BJP in Maharashtra. But if they don’t arrest these two, it will go against them. If the government doesn’t take any action, various outfits will not keep quiet,

“I have maintained peace in whatever was in my control. But to maintain peace in the state is the Chief Minister’s responsibility,” he said.

The row following the attack on people going to Bhima Koregaon has to potential to create a churn in Dalit politics in Maharashtra. Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Babasaheb Ambedkar, has emerged as the tallest Dalit leader in the state in the entire episode.

This is bad news for the BJP as he has been a steadfast critic of the party. On the other hand, BJP-aligned Dalit leaders like Republican party of India (RPI) faction chief Ramdas Athawale, have been pushed on the back foot.

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India – Govt failed to use 40% of funds for family planning this financial year #WTFnews

The lowest utilization of funds for family planning was recorded by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh, the report says
Neetu Chandra Sharma

File photo. The budget allocation for family planning is currently only 4% of the total Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) flexi-pool budget. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

File photo. The budget allocation for family planning is currently only 4% of the total Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) flexi-pool budget. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

New Delhi: The Union health ministry, which proposes to increase its budget for family planning in the next financial year, failed to use about 40% of its allocation for family planning programmes in the current financial year.

Only 60.7% of the funds allocated to the family planning programme have been used across states during the current financial year which would end in March, according to the ministry’s Financial Management Report 2016-17.

The budget allocation for family planning is currently only 4% of the total Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) flexi-pool budget.

According to the report, the lowest utilization of funds was recorded by Uttar Pradesh (38%), followed by Bihar (48%), and Chhattishgarh (49%) in the high focus category of states for family planning.

In the north-east, the lowest funds were utilized by Meghalaya (26%), Manipur (35%) and Sikkim (46%). Interestingly, national capital Delhi spent only 36% and Chandigarh 26% of the total funds allocated for family planning.

“Under National Health Mission (NHM), family planning is one of the major activities. The funds are approved activity-wise but are allocated and released to states pool-wise under NHM. Approvals are given on the higher side to improve the absorption capacity of the states,” Ashwini Kumar Choubey, minister of state for health told Lok Sabha last week.

“However, expenditure under the particular scheme depends on the overall availability of funds in a particular year. Moreover, public health being a state subject, its implementation primarily lies with the state. The government has proposed to increase the budget allocation under NHM for financial year 2018-19 to ministry of finance,” stated Choubey.

Public health experts say that poor resource allocation and low budget utilization exacerbate the inadequacy of financial resources for health. Effective allocation and utilization is also constrained by public financial management design, operational processes, and governance factors.

“There is persistent under spending of health budgets, which is worse in the poorer states. This is caused by problems in governance, public financial management design, and operational constraints. Because poorer states are more dependent on central subsidies, greater under spending of these subsidies affects them more,” said Peter Berman, health economist with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who recently studied government financing of healthcare in India since 2005.

“More spending on health is needed, but it must be accompanied by better measures to improve the use of appropriated funds, especially where there is a dire need of healthcare funds,” he said.

The Union health ministry earlier this year launched Mission Parivar Vikas for over 146 high-fertility districts that have a total fertility rate (TFR) of 3 and above. TFR is the number of children who would be born per woman (or per 1,000 women) if she/they were to pass through the childbearing years bearing children according to a current schedule of age-specific fertility rates. At least 56% of the 261 districts are in the seven high-focus states—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Assam.

These districts are currently contributing to 28% of India’s population.

“Attention to family planning is crucial for India in current times. As per the estimation of the government, if the current unmet need for family planning could be fulfilled within the next five years, India can avert 35,000 maternal deaths and 1.2 million infant deaths. If safe abortion services are coupled with an increase in family planning, the savings made to the country could be to the tune of Rs6,500 crore,” said Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India.

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History of the Koregaon Memorial- Contesting Power, Contesting Memories

Examining continuity and change in the commemorative history of an imperial war memorial, this paper shows that the contestations for hegemony in the present often take the form of contestations about memories. The Koregaon Bheema obelisk near Pune, which was built to reconfirm the belief of the British in their own power, today serves much the same function but for a different group of people – former untouchable Mahars – who had no choice but to collaborate with the colonisers against a tyrannical native regime.

Shraddha Kumbhojkar

The British East India Company began its direct political ascendancy in eastern and northern India with the battle of Plassey in 1757. Gradually, it extended its political hold to other parts of India. During the same period, the Peshwa rulers (1707-1818) were also spreading their political influence in all directions from their base in Pune. Clashes b­etween the Peshwas and the Company seemed inevitable. On 1 January 1818, a battalion of about 900 Company soldiers, led by F F Staunton, on a march from Seroor to Pune suddenly found itself facing a 20,000-strong army led by the Peshwa himself at the village of Koregaon1 on the banks of the river Bheema. In the words of Grant Duff, who was a contemporary official and historian, “Captain Staunton was destitute of provisions, and this detachment, already fatigued from want of rest and a long night march, now, under a burning sun, without food or water, began a struggle as trying as ever was maintained by the British in India.”2 Neither side won a decisive victory but despite heavy casualties Staunton’s troops managed to recover their guns and carry the wounded officers and men back to Seroor.

As this was one of the last battles of the Anglo-Maratha wars that soon resulted in the complete victory of the Company, the encounter quickly came to be remembered as a triumph. The East India Company wasted no time in showering recognition on its soldiers. While Staunton was promoted to the honorary post of aide-de-camp by the governor general,3 the battle r­eceived special mention in parliamentary debates the next year.4 A memorial was commissioned and Lt Col Delamin, who passed by the village the next year, witnessed the construction of a 60-foot commemorative obelisk.5

Almost two centuries later, the Koregaon memorial still stands intact. It is supposed to commemorate the British and Indian soldiers who “defended the village with so much success”6 when they confronted the Peshwa army in a “desperate engage-ment.”7 The marble plaques in English along with Marathi translations adorning the four sides of the monument declare that the obelisk commemorates the defence of Koregaon in which Captain Staunton and his corps “accomplished one of the proudest triumphs of the British army in the East.”8 Soon after, the word “Corregaum” and the obelisk were chosen to adorn the official insignia of the regiment.9

Later chroniclers of colonial rule continued to shower praise on the largely outnumbered British force for displaying “the most noble devotion and most romantic bravery under the pressure of thirst and hunger almost beyond human endurance.”10 In 1885, even the Grey River Argus, a newspaper published in far-off New Zealand, described the battle in glowing terms.11 After the turn of the century, though, the colonial commemoration began to fade and there were no significant subsequent references to the battle in British literature and public memory.

Memories: ‘Ours’ and ‘Theirs’

Today, the memorial stands just off a busy highway toll-­collection booth. Every New Year day, the urban middle classes who use the highway remind each other to avoid the stretch that passes by the memorial with the warning that “those people will be swarming their site at Koregaon”. Indeed, the memorial has become a place of pilgrimage, attracting thousands of people every 1 January. If one stops by to ask the pilgrims what brings them there, they say, “We are here to remember that our Mahar fore-fathers fought bravely and brought down the u­njust Peshwa rule. Dr [B R] Ambedkar started this pilgrimage. He asked us to fight injustice. We have come to find inspiration by remembering the brave soldiers and Dr Ambedkar.”12

One might be baffled by this admiration for the native soldiers who fought on the British side and lost their lives in a fight against their own countrymen. A scrutiny of the list of casualties inscribed on the memorial reveals that more than 20 names of the native casualties listed end with the suffix “-nac” – Essnac, Rynac, Gunnac. This suffix was used exclusively by the “un-touchables” of the Mahar caste who served as soldiers. This is particularly relevant when juxtaposed with the caste of the Peshwas who were orthodox, high-caste brahmin. This is where one realises that the story of Koregaon is not just about a straightforward struggle between a colonial power and a native one; there is another important but largely ignored dimension to it – caste.

The Peshwas were infamous for their high-caste orthodoxy and their persecution of the untouchables. Numerous sources document in detail that under the Peshwa rulers the untouchable people who were born in certain low castes received harsher punishment for the same crimes committed by those from high castes.13 They were forbidden to move about public spaces in the mornings and evenings lest their long shadows defile high-caste people on the street. Besides physical mobility, occupational and social mobility was denied to these people who formed a major part of the population. In 1855, Mukta Salave, a 15-year-old girl from the untouchable Mang caste who attended the first native school for girls in Pune wrote an animated piece about the atrocities faced by her caste.

Let that religion, where only one person is privileged and the rest are deprived, perish from the earth and let it never enter our minds to be proud of such a religion. These people drove us, the poor mangs and mahars, away from our own lands, which they occupied to build large mansions. And that was not all. They regularly used to make the mangs and mahars drink oil mixed with red lead and then buried them in the foundations of their mansions, thus wiping out generation after generation of these poor people. Under Bajirao’s rule, if any mang or mahar happened to pass in front of the gymnasium, they cut off his head and used it to play ‘bat ball’, with their swords as bats and his head as a ball, on the grounds.14

 Even today, Peshwa atrocities against the low-caste people remain ingrained in public memory.15 Human sacrifice of ­untouchable people was not uncommon under these 17th century rulers who framed elaborate rules and mechanisms to en-sure that they remained the same as their name – untouchable. When the British East India Company began recruiting soldiers for the Bombay army, the untouchables seized the o­pportunity and enlisted themselves. Military service was perceived to help open the doors to economic as well as social emancipation. ­Political freedom and nationalism had little meaning if one had to choose between a life where the best meal on offer was a dead buffalo in the village16 and a life where some dignity was evi-dent, not to mention a decent monthly pay in cash.

The valour the untouchable soldiers who fought on the side of the British is not perceived as a shameful memory today. In fact, Koregaon has become an iconic site for the former untouchables because it serves as a reminder of the bravery and strength shown by their ancestors – the very virtues the caste system claimed they lacked. This may help to explain how a me-morial to a colonial victory built in the early 19th century has been adapted to serve as a site that inspires those who b­elong to castes earlier considered untouchable.

The battle of Koregaon and the memorial was mentioned in an increasingly congratulatory tone in a number of documents on military history published in Britain throughout the 19th century. In parliamentary debates in March 1819, the event was summed up as follows: “In the end, they not only secured an unmolested retreat, but they carried off their wounded!”. In a volume published in 1844, Charles McFarlane quotes from an official report to the governor that it was “one of the most brilliant affairs ever achieved by any army in which the European and Native soldiers displayed the most noble devotion and the most romantic bravery”.17 Twenty years later, H Morris confidently added, “Captain Staunton returned to Seroor, which he entered with colours flying and drums beating, after one of the most gallant actions ever fought by the English in India”.18

Mahars and the Military

However, in the 20th century, with British rule firmly established over most of India, the Koregaon memorial faded from main-stream commemorations. Neither Britain at the height of colonial glory, nor India, which was beginning to get independence in small doses, had time to commemorate a violent struggle that had taken place in the days of the East India Company.19 The valour of the Mahar regiment, however, continued to be manifested in the battles of Kathiawad (1826), Multan (1846) and the second Afghan War (1880). However, breaking their tradition of loyalty, some sepoys from the M­ahar regiment, which was a part of the Bombay army, joined the Indian mutiny against the British in 1857. Subsequently, Mahars were declared a non-martial race and their recruitment was stopped in 1892.

The Mahars soon began to feel the pinch. Gopal Baba Valangkar, a retired army man, had founded a Society for Removing the Problems of Non-Aryans.20 In 1894, the members of this society wrote a petition to the governor of Bombay r­eminding him that the Mahars had fought for the British to acquire their present kingdom and requested a reconsideration of the decision to ex-clude Mahars from the martial races, which deprived them of entry into military service. The ­petition was rejected in 1896.21

Another leader of the untouchables, Shivram Janba Kamble, made even more sustained efforts to emancipate them. He had been involved in the work of the Depressed Classes Mission that ran schools for untouchable children. In October 1910,

R A Lamb of the Bombay governor’s executive council was invited as the chief guest for a prize distribution ceremony in one of these schools. In his speech, Lamb mentioned the Koregaon memorial, which he visited annually. He drew attention to the “many names of Mahars who fell wounded or dead fighting bravely side by side with Europeans and with Indians who were not outcastes” and regretted that “one avenue to honourable work had been closed to these people”. It is not known whether it was Lamb’s speech that threw the spotlight back on the Koregaon memorial or whether it was already a part of the collective memory but the speech certainly lent weight to the argument that it was Mahars who fought for the British that helped make them “masters of Poona”.22

Kamble conducted a number of meetings of Mahars at the memorial site in the first decades of the 20th century. In 1910, he organised a conference of the Deccan Mahars from 51 villages in the western region. The conference sent an appeal to the sec-retary of state demanding their “inalienable rights as British subjects from the British Government”.23 They made a strong case to let Mahars re-enter the army and argued that Mahars “are not essentially inferior to any of our Indian fellow-subjects”.24 Up until 1916, various gatherings of untouchables in western India kept repeating this request to the rulers. As the first world war gained momentum, the Bombay government in 1917 issued orders for enlistment in the army, including the formation of two platoons of Mahars.25

The Coming of Ambedkar

However, the Mahars’ happiness was short-lived – the British army stopped recruiting them as soon as the war ended and this renewed their campaign for recognition of the valour of the untouchables. It had by then assumed the shape of a movement for the general emancipation of untouchables. Within this campaign, the Koregaon memorial had become a focal point; various meetings were held at the obelisk during which Kamble and other leaders invariably reminded the untouchables of the valour and prowess exhibited by their forefathers. On the anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon on 1 January 1927, Kamble i­nvited Ambedkar to address the gathering of M­ahars.26 Ambedkar was not just another leader of the untouchables; he was by then a force to reckon with in Indian politics.

Ambedkar was born in 1891 to a retired army subedar from the Mahar caste. Despite first-hand experience of caste discrimi-nation, he obtained a doctorate from Columbia University, a DSc from the London School of Economics and was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn by the age of 32 and in 1926 b­ecame a member of the Bombay legislative assembly. He could not fail to appreci-ate the significance of the memorial for advancing the cause of emancipation of the untouchables and not only made an in-spiring speech before the gathering but also supported the idea of reviving the memory of the valour of their forefathers by vis-iting the memorial annually on the anniversary of the battle. As a representative of the untouchables, Ambedkar was invited by the British to the Round Table Conference in 1931 that was to decide on the future of India. Based on his arguments at the conference, he wrote a small treatise titled “The Untouchables and the Pax Britannica” in which he referred to the Battle of Ko-regaon to support his a­rgument that the untouchables had been instrumental in the establishment and consolidation of British power in India.27

Indian mainstream politics from the 1920s to 1947 is recognised as the Gandhian era. M K Gandhi, born in the middle-order caste of traders, had a different outlook on the systemic exploitation of the untouchables on grounds of caste. He called the untouchables harijans, meaning people of god. Ambedkar and his followers resented both the name and the patronising atti-tude behind it. Going beyond this, there were major ideological differences between Ambedkar and Gandhi. For the India rep-resented by Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, the primary contradiction was between colonial supremacy and Indian aspirations for political freedom; for Ambedkar and the untouchable masses he represented, the oppression was not located in the political system but in the socio-economic sphere. There was a clash of interests. The Congress under Gandhi sought to rep-resent all Indians in a unified front against colonial rule; Ambedkar and the untouchables, for their part, were certain that re-placing colonial rulers with high and middle-class Congress leaders offered no solution to their problems. The known devil of colonial rulers was more tolerable to the untouchables.

In 1930, Gandhi embarked on the civil disobedience movement against the systems and institutions of the colonial rule. Kamble and a few other representatives of the depressed classes retaliated by launching what they called the Indian N­ational Anti-Revolutionary Party. Its manifesto, quoted in the Bombay Chronicle, said,28

In view of the fact that Mr Gandhi, Dictator of the Indian National Congress has declared a civil disobedience movement before doing his utmost to secure temple entry for the ‘depressed’ classes and the complete removal of ‘untouchability’, it has been decided to organise the Indian National Anti-Revolutionary Party in order to persuade Gandhiji and his followers to postpone their civil disobedience agita-tion and to join whole-heartedly the Anti-Untouchability movement as it is…the root cause of India’s downfall…The Party will regard British rule as absolutely necessary until the complete removal of untouchability.

Though this party did not attract much support, it demonstrates that for the untouchables social and economic well-­being was of greater, and more immediate, concern than p­olitical freedom, and hence colonial rule was deemed a necessary evil for the time being. It also shows that there were other, o­ften contradictory voices in the independence movement that have often been glossed over in nationalist rhetoric.

A New Memory

India won its independence in 1947 and its new constitution was drafted by a committee chaired by Ambedkar. The “an-ni­hilation of caste”,29 however, remained a distant dream. ­Parliament did not accept the Hindu Code Bill proposed by Ambedkar to bring about far-reaching reforms in the Hindu sociocultural scene and a disillusioned Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet in 1951. In 1956, millions of untouchables under his leadership converted en masse to Buddhism as a step towards at-taining total freedom from exploitation. The same year, after Ambedkar passed away in December, a political party called the Republican Party of India (RPI) was formed to represent the interests of the downtrodden.

The mass conversions opened the floodgates for cultural conflict with the high castes. The immediate reaction of the Hindu right was of denial. The strategy of cultural appropriation that has worked so well for Hinduism from the time of the Buddha is employed even today to project the Buddhists as just another sect within Hinduism.30 For the neo-Buddhists, this necessitated the creation of new and different cultural practices. Among the neo-Buddhists in western India, the pilgri­mage to the Koregaon memorial emerged as one of the invented cultural practices and thousands of them throng to the memorial every New Year day to commemorate the valour of the Mahars who helped to overthrow the unjust high-caste rule of the Peshwa. They also com-memorate Ambedkar’s visit to the place on 1 January 1927.

Unlike any other site of Hindu pilgrimage, the Koregaon m­emorial is devoid of the telltale signs of a holy marketplace. No sellers of garlands, sweets and images of gods are found here. It is deserted all through the year; however, come New Year, and the place is dotted with little stalls selling books, cassettes and CDs. Various publishers of Ambedkarite literature put up stalls for their books; neo-Buddhist songs played loudly describe Ambedkar’s greatness and the need to change the world;31 leaders of the now numerous factions of the RPI address their followers; neo-Buddhist families visit the memorial obelisk to offer flowers or light candles.

An important part of the ritual is offering a vandana, a r­ecital of verses from Buddhist texts. Another equally important item on the programme is to buy books. Interviews with various booksellers reveal that whenever there is a gathering or pilgrimage of neo-Buddhists, bookstalls do roaring business. The average size of books sold at these stalls is mostly small – 30 to 70 pages priced between Rs 10 and Rs 50, indicating that the readers are largely neo-literate, have very little time to spend on reading and can only afford low-priced books. Many publishers of related literature said that their daily sales figures at the Koregaon pilgrimage and other such events (for example, Mumbai and Nagpur) were often more than their sales figures for the rest of the year.32 This could be perceived as an indication of the belief in the emancipatory potential of education among neo-Buddhists, especially of the former Mahar caste. Some of the bestselling titles include Marathi translations of books authored by Ambedkar such as Buddha and His Dhamma, Annihilation of Caste and Who Were the Shudras? Other popular books include dalit autobiog-raphies besides dalit poetry and short biographies of dalit leaders.

These books offer a dalit viewpoint of Indian history in which colonial rule is seen to be instrumental for emancipation, though ignorant of the realities of caste exploitation. While Jotirao Phule and Ambedkar are among the prominent dalit writers who propounded this view, Gandhi and the m­ovement for India’s independence do not figure positively in this paradigm. However, the fact that Ambedkar chaired the committee that wrote the Constitution of India in 1950 is c­onsidered very im-portant and any attempt to criticise or seek a change in the Indian Constitution draws opposition from the dalits. For instance, dalit leaders and their followers have r­efused to endorse Anna Hazare’s campaign for a Lokpal, an extra-constitutional om-budsman.

The Importance of Forgetting

Interestingly, though the Koregaon memorial was commissioned by the colonial rulers, it does not feature on the commemora-tive landscape of the British public today. This amnesia may be attributed to the fact that memories of empire, e­specially vio-lent battles, are no longer a matter of pride in present-day Britain. For the high castes in India, this amnesia is understandable. Poona, the capital of the Peshwas, has metamorphosed into a software and education destination called Pune. When a sample of 130 members of high-caste, neo-rich people (who have come to be nicknamed cyber coolies) was asked about the Koregaon memorial, none of them knew what it was.33 The same respondents were also against the policy of affirmative action in the private sector to include more dalits in the globalised economy.

There is also what may be called a pseudomnesia – false memories – manufactured for elite consumption. During the 1970s, Maharashtra witnessed a spate of popular (a)historical Marathi novels on the bestseller lists. Many of them dominate the histor-ical understanding and perceptions of the Marathi-speaking middle classes even today. An important novel from this genre, authored by a brahmin, describes the battle of Koregaon in passing. Mantravegla by N S Inamdar, based on the life of Baji Rao II, claims that the battle was won by the Peshwas.34 This trend of creating pseudo-memories is more pronounced today. The third battle of Panipat, which saw the rout of the Peshwa army in 1761, is commemorated at high-sounding rallies.35 Indeed, the rhet-oric used during these rallies could lead one to believe it was the Peshwa who won at Panipat.

The Koregaon memorial occupies a very significant place in today’s neo-Buddhist culture with the internet and other elec-tronic media used to document and commemorate the Battle of Koregaon and Ambedkar’s visit. An image search for the Ko-regaon pillar yields hundreds of digital pictures; film clips of the pilgrimage are available on YouTube; at

least a dozen blogs in English and Marathi have entries ­related to the Koregaon memorial. They describe the battle and the role of the Mahar soldiers and also remind readers about what the untouchables could achieve when they showed resolve.

To conclude, conflicting memories have been created around the Koregaon Bheema obelisk and represent the divergent in-terests of the groups involved in their creation. Those wishing to commemorate the greatness of Peshwa rule – a symbol of high-caste supremacy – either choose to ignore the Battle of Koregaon or create the pseudomnesia of a Peshwa victory. It is also an imperial site of memory that has been largely forgotten in Britain. However, the monument has undergone a metamorphosis of commemoration, as it no longer r­eminds the public of imperial power, except for the former untouchables whose forefathers shed their blood at Koregaon. It serves the purpose of providing “historical evidence” of

the ability of the untouchables to overthrow high-caste oppression. Considering that Indian society is still dominated by

a system of caste hierarchy,36 the Koregaon memorial also ­reminds us that present-day contestation for hegemony is often ­manifested in contesting memories.


1 Variously spelt as Corigaum, Corregaum, Korygaom or Corygawm in contemporary English records; T C Hansard (1819), The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time, Vol 39, p 887, House of Commons, 4 March; Carnaticus (1820), Summary of the Mahratta and Pindarree Campaign during 1817, 1818, and 1819.

2 James Grant Duff (1826), A History of the Mahrattas, Vol 3, p 434.

3 Charles Mac Farlane (1844), Our Indian Empire Its History and Present State, from the Earliest Settlement of the British in Hindoostan to the Close of the Year 1843, Vol 2, London, p 233.

4 Hansard (1819).

5 Lt Col Delamin (1831), Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, Vol 5, p 135, W H Allen & Co.

6 Delamin (1831).

7 George Newenham Wright (1835), A New and Comprehensive Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol 2.

8 Inscription on the memorial obelisk, Koregaon Bheema (1822).

9 2nd Battalion of the 1st Regiment of the Bombay Native Light Infantry that eventually came to be known as the Mahar Regiment.

10 Mac Farlane (1844).

11 Grey River Argus, Vol 31, Issue 5202, 28 May 1885, p 2.

12 Interview with Shankar Munoli, a 36-year-old schoolteacher who was with a group of 60 teenagers visiting the memorial on 1 January 2010.

13 H G Frank (1900), Panchayats under the Peshwas, Poona, p 40.

14 Mukta Salave (1991), (trans Maya Pandit) “Tharu Susie, Ke Lalita”, Women Writing in ­India, The Feminist Press, New York, p 214.

15 For example, see G P Deshpande (2002), Selected Writings of Jotirao Phule, Leftword Books; Ambedkar, B R Annihilation of Caste at http://; Rosalind O’Hanlon (2002), Caste, Conflict and Ideology, Cambridge University Press. Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram Kotwal is a popular and controversial play that has been running on and off since 1972 and depicts caste-based exploitation, the downfall of the Peshwas and the ensuing power struggle.

16 A number of autobiographies in Marathi by u­ntouchables describe the occasional “feast”

of dead buffalo meat. For example, Taraal Antaraal by Kharat Shankarrao and Baluta by Daya Pawar. Also see Dangle Arjun (ed) (1992), Poisoned Bread (Mumbai: Orient Longman).

17 Mac Farlane (1844), p 233.

18 Henry Morris (1864), The History of India, Fifth Edition, Madras School Book Society, M­adras, p 207.

19 Various reforms and acts, especially Lord Ripon’s Resolution on Local Self-government in 1882 eventually led to self-government in a very limited sense.

20 The original Marathi name was Anarya Dosha Pariharak Mandali.

21 The English petition and the government resolution to make no change in the recruitment policy are quoted in C B Khairmode (1987), Dr Bheemrao Ramji Ambedkar, Vol VIII, Sugawa Prakashan, Pune, pp 228-50.

22 Text of the petition to the secretary of state quoted in H N Navalkar (1997), The Life of Shivram Janba Kamble (first published 1930), Sugawa Prakashan, Pune, p 149.

23 Navalkar 1997, p 154.

24 Navalkar 1997, p 153.

25 Khairmode 1987, p 251.

26 Anupama Rao (2009), The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India, University of California Press, p 346.

27 B R Ambedkar, The Untouchables and Pax B­ritannica, at, accessed on 19 August 2011.

28 The Bombay Chronicle, 2 April 1930, emphasis mine.

29 This is the title of a book by Ambedkar published in 1936. Available at www.

30 For example, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on its website quotes from S Radhakrishnan’s I­ndian Philosophy, “Buddhism Is an Offshoot of Hinduism”. See

31 A popular song by an Ambedkarite poet Vaman Kardak goes “Bheemrao (Ambedkar) has pas­sed on the message to me, Strike the anvil and change the world.”

32 Interviews with Vilas Wagh and Narayan B­hosle, publishers of Ambedkarite literature, conducted in January 2010.

33 Interviews with about 120 people from the software industry conducted in Pune, May-June 2011.

34 N S Inamdar (1969), Mantravegla, Continental Prakashan, Pune, p 17, p 461.

35 For example, see this text message received by the writer on 1 Dec 2011. “3rd January to 28 January 2012, a March towards Panipat on two-wheelers! 8 states, 76 districts, many forts, ancient temples and caves and holy places included. 7,000 kms of travel on bikes. The March begins from the historical palace of Shrimant Sirdar Satyen-draraje Dabhade Sirkar. Come one, Come all! Bring your friends along and join the Maratha forces. Yours Obediently, Prof Pramod Borhade.”

36 Shraddha Kumbhojkar and Devendra Ingale, “Wither Homo-hierarchus?”, a paper presented at the Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, University of Oxford, March 2008. One of the findings was that caste is the deciding factor when choosing a life partner and deciding on the location of a house but not so much in the choice of friends and employers.

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Kerala Journalist Arrested For A Second Time Under Fabricated Case

Pratheesh had been taken into custody by the same cop who had harassed him earlier.
Pratheesh Rema Facebook Page

Kochi journalist Pratheesh Rema’s brushes with the law don’t seem to end.

Pratheesh Rema, a senior reporter at Narada News was attacked and arrested by the Kerala police. He is a crime reporter who continuously writes on police atrocities and he is the one who addressed the custodial abuse of Dalit youth named Vinayakan. Pratheesh was arrested from his flat in Ernakulam.

The police allegedly slapped Pratheesh on his ear when he asked, “what crime have I committed?”

The police was accompanied by a crowd barged into Pratheesh’s flat where he and his friends were staying. This crowd accused them of hurting the moral fabric of the locality. In simple words, the police accompanied a moral policing crowd. The Station House Officer, Vibin Das was also among the crowd.

SHO Vibin Das responded to those who went to the police station, “Things will retort and we know everything will come to end at us itself. See, now you can see there is God.” Barsa, a dalit activist and Pratheesh were attacked morally and physically by a police team led by the same Vipin Das.

The entire thing seemed to be staged and fabricated. SHO Vibin Das also said that he arrested Pratheesh according to Congress MLA Hibi Eeden’s instructions. Barsa, a dalit activist and Pratheesh were attacked morally and physically, on November 30 midnight by a police team led by Vibin Das.

That day Pratheesh was handcuffed and made to stand naked for hours. Later, on the next day, Pratheesh wrote an article on Vinayakan where he says, “Brother, it is the same police who killed you, that has attacked me now.”

I think it is a well scripted attack on a crime reporter, who reports police atrocities against people. These are the sections of Indian Penal Code imposed against Pratheesh Rema, 294B341 323324and 506.

This is very clear that this attack and arrest is to send an alarm to Pratheesh Rema on his interventions in the media that pose a threat to the ‘integrity’ of Kerala Police, which I believe, is totally backed by the CPIM government and its atrocities on innocents from OBC, SC/ST categories. We know why Pratheesh was picked up. However, Pratheesh is out in bail now

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Workers of the World, Unite! 

A bilingual book in English and Urdu is an aesthetically beautiful thing. One script runs from left to right, the other the opposite way. In perfect symmetry, the book splits in half, with the last pages of both versions meeting in the middle. Depending on which script you choose to read first, the back cover of that book is the front cover of the other language half.

But the symmetry can be deceptive, as it most certainly was in the case of the bilingual dock workers’ union booklet I encountered in the British East India Office archives in London. It may lead you to think that reading either version is enough to reveal the contents of the book to you. Language, however, is a tool of power, and militant labour union members in early twentieth century Bombay were clearly aware of the possibilities of using their knowledge of multiple languages against the machinations of an exploitative colonial state. For historians of multilingual societies, therefore, it is imperative to read beyond the language of government, with a careful eye to translation.

The Bombay Dock Workers’ Union was founded in 1931 by Dr. M. R. Shetty and Hansraj Gulati, and consisted primarily of stevedores who worked in the Bombay docks. The English cover of their constitution booklet is quite uninteresting. The Urdu cover however, reveals two interesting differences.

The two halves of the booklet were printed at different locations- the names of the presses therefore are different. While the English half was printed in Fort, the section of the city that housed Bombay’s elite- Europeans and Indians- the Urdu half was printed in Kamathipura, which was inhabited primarily by labourers. In 1931 the number of persons per acre in Kamathipura was 602, while that in Fort North was 163 and Fort South was 26 (Census of India 1931, Vol 9, Part I). Following the material history of the union rulebook itself, therefore, gives us a glimpse into the vastly unequal distribution of population and resources in twentieth century Bombay city.

Even more interestingly, the Urdu cover adds one extra line to the cover details. The line at the very top of the cover reads: Ay mazdooran-e alam ittefaq karo, or ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ That this rallying cry of labour movements worldwide, popularized from the last words of Marx’s Communist Manifesto, was omitted from the English cover was no accident. At a time when labour unions were treated with great suspicion and repression by the colonial government, the Bombay Dock Workers’ Union was among the most militant in Bombay. Not all unions in India at the time were communist, yet all unions and their activities were closely monitored. The fact that the rulebook of the Dock Workers’ Union ended up in a government file in London containing the rules and regulations of several other unions, associations and chambers of commerce based in Bombay, testifies to this very surveillance.

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 7.37.33 PMIn 1932 the Chief Presidency Magistrate sentenced M.R. Shetty, then President of the Dock Workers’ Union to a year’s imprisonment, along with two other labour leaders on charges of sedition and “creating class hatred”. Dr. Shetty was found guilty for addressing a May Day audience of about 600 workers, demanding “international independence” from capitalists and zamindars, and suggesting that India was being looted with the government’s knowledge. The calls made by the other convicted speakers allegedly included demands for a “Labourer’s Raj” to fight against imperialism, a general strike that would “cripple the capitalists” and Kisan Sabhas (peasants’ associations) that should follow neither Congress nor the Bengal revolutionaries but the principles enumerated by M.N. Roy, founder of the Communist Party of India. (Times of India, August 3, 1932).

Earlier in 1932 the Dock Workers’ Union had struck with a 1000 dock labourers protesting the use of middlemen in contracting their labour, claiming that they received only 25 percent of the wages due to them. The strike may not have been an immediate success, but the union kept playing a crucial role in organizing dock workers to demand more from their employers in future. By 1941 the very same Times of India that had decried the “Communist element” in 1932 for “intimidating” and “molesting” “loyal” workers at picket lines, was eager to describe the “evils” inherent in the system of recruiting stevedores through middlemen. The East India Cotton Association banned the system of using middlemen contractors (serangs and tindals) in 1939 and gave themselves thanks for the “initiative and courage shown by the Trustees” since “the mere elimination of the middleman [had] resulted in a rise of about 30 percent in the earnings of workers.” The work of the Bombay Dock Workers’ Union was therefore as crucial for Bombay’s labour movement as it was a cause of concern for the shipping companies and the government. Particularly threatening to the colonial government was the prospect of collaboration between striking dock workers and the Congress calling for a boycott of ships carrying British goods.

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 7.44.55 PM

Facing such a climate of repression, with the might of colonial law and police arraigned against their organizing activities, it is no surprise that the union should choose to leave any overt references to Communism out of its English rulebook. Despite the missing slogan, however, the language of the rules themselves made the political leanings of the union rather clear. Compared to the objectives of the National Seamen’s Union of India’s rulebook, for example (“to foster a spirit of unity, friendship, and self-help among the members” and to “help the working classes in India and outside”), the Dock Workers’ Union set themselves a more radical task of class-building and politics (“to foster the spirit of solidarity and class consciousness amongst the workers through agitation and propaganda pointing out the identity of their interest” and “to help any movement that has for its object the welfare and advancement of the working class”).

The leadership of the Bombay Dock Workers’ Union was also interesting: in 1935 it ranged from men, both Hindu and Muslim, like M.R. Shetty, Deen Mohammad and Mohammad Ibrahim to women like Maniben Kara. Not only is the history of such unions- their organizers and members- grievously under researched, but so is the wider history of the dock workers, lascars and seamen of colonial Bombay. If the historian does not approach with an eye to the multilingual life inhabited by these workers and union leaders, the histories of the subject that we write will remain commensurately lacking.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of dock workers of Bombay, read Mariam Dossal’s essay ‘Godistolis and mathadis: dock workers of Bombay‘.


ইংরেজি ও উর্দুতে লেখা এই দ্বিভাষিক বইটি বেশ চমৎকার একটি জিনিস। লন্ডনে ব্রিটিশ ইস্ট ইন্ডিয়া অফিসের আর্কাইভে এই ইউনিয়ান সংবিধানটি খুঁজে পাই। ইংরেজি লিপির টান বাঁ থেকে ডান দিকে, উর্দু লেখা ঠিক তার উল্টো। অবাক প্রতিসাম্যে বইটির দুই ভাগ- ঠিক মাঝখানে ইংরেজি ও উর্দু ভাগ দুটির অন্তিম পাতাগুলি মুখোমুখি। যদি ইংরেজি দিয়ে পড়া শুরু করেন, তাহলে বইটির পেছনের পৃষ্ঠাটি হচ্ছে উর্দু অংশের ফ্রন্ট কভার। উর্দু দিয়ে পড়া শুরু করলে ঠিক তার বিপরীত। সামনে-পেছনের অবিরত অদলবদল!

তবে এই প্রতিসাম্যের মায়ায় ঠকে যাওয়া সহজ। আপনি মনে করতে পারেন যে যে কোনো একটি সংস্করণ পড়াই যথেষ্ট- আরেক ভাষায় দ্বিতীয়বার একই বক্তব্য পড়া অপ্রয়োজনীয়। তবে সেই ভেবে শুধু ইংরেজি অংশটি পড়লে কিছু গুরুত্বপূর্ণ তথ্য আপনার চোখে পড়বে না। ভাষা কে ক্ষমতার এক যন্ত্র বলে চিনে, একাধিক ভাষার জ্ঞান প্রয়োগ করে শোষণমূলক ঔপনিবেশিক রাষ্ট্রের দমনকে প্রতিহত করার নানান উপায় শ্রমিক ইউনিয়নের সদস্য ও নেতাদের রপ্ত ছিল। অতএব, বহুভাশিক সমাজের ঐতিহাসিকদেরও দায়িত্ব শাসনের ভাষার মহাফেজখানা অতিক্রম করে, বিভিন্ন প্রচলিত ভাষার চর্চা ও অনুবাদের প্রতি মনযোগী হওয়া।

১৯৩১ সালে বম্বের জাহাজ-ঘাটার কুলিদের শ্রমিক সঙ্ঘ হিশেবে, ডাঃ এম.আর. সেট্টি ও হান্স্রাজ গুলাটি দ্বারা, বম্বে ডক্‌ ওয়ার্কার্স ইউনিয়ান প্রতিষ্ঠাপিত হয়। এইটি সেই ইউনিয়ানের নিয়ম ও সংবিধানের বই। ইংরেজি ও উর্দু সংস্করণের আবরণ দুটি পাশাপাশি রেখে পড়লে, দুটি প্রধান পার্থক্য ধরা পড়ে।

বইটির দুই ভাগে ছাপাখানার নাম দুটি আলাদা। ইংরেজি অংশটি বম্বের ফোর্ট অঞ্চলে ছাপা হয়, যেখানে ছিল শহরের সব চেয়ে অভিজাত- ইউরোপীয় এবং ভারতীয়- শ্রেণীদের বাস। উর্দু অংশটি ছাপা হয় কামাঠিপুরার এক ছাপাখানায়, যে অঞ্চলে ছিল প্রধানত শ্রমিকদের বসবাস। ১৯৩১ সালের সেন্সাসঅনুযায়ী কামাঠিপুরায় একর মারফত জনসংখ্যার ঘনত্ব ছিল ৬০২ মানুষ, যেই সময় উত্তর ফোর্টের প্রতি একরে ছিল ১৬৩ জন মানুষের বসবাস এবং দক্ষিণ ফোর্টে মাত্র ২৬ জন। অর্থাৎ, বইটির উপাদান ইতিহাসের খোঁজ মাত্র থেকেই বিংশ শতাব্দীর বম্বে শহরে জনসংখ্যা ও সম্পদ বিতরণের ব্যাপক অসাম্যের ধারণা পাওয়া যায়।

দ্বিতীয়ত, উর্দু আবরণের লেখাগুলির মাঝে একটি বাড়তি বাক্য আছে। ইউনিয়ানের নাম, তার আইনি নিবন্ধন ও ছাপাখানার নামের উপরে আলাদা লেখা- এ মজদুরে আলম, ইত্তেফাক্‌ করো। অর্থাৎ, দুনিয়ার মজদুর এক হও! মার্ক্সের কমিউনিস্ট ম্যানিফেস্টোর শেষ শব্দগুলি থেকে অভিযোজিত এই বিশ্বপ্রিয় শ্রমিক আন্দোলনের স্লোগানটি ভুল করে ইংরেজি সংস্করণ থেকে বাদ পড়েনি। ঔপনিবেশিক সরকারের শ্রমিক সংগঠনের প্রতি কঠোর সন্দেহ ও জুলুমের পরিবেশে বম্বে ডক্‌ ওয়ার্কার্স ইউনিয়ান তাদের মিলিটেন্ট পরিচয় গড়ে তোলে। সেই সময় ভারতবর্ষের সব ইউনিয়ান সাম্যবাদী একেবারেই ছিল না, তবে রাষ্ট্র দ্বারা প্রতিটি ইউনিয়ানের কাজ নিরীক্ষণ করা হত। বম্বে শহরের অন্যান্য ইউনিয়ান, সংগঠন, ও বাণিজ্য সমিতির নিয়ম-বই সহ ডক্‌ ওয়ার্কার্স ইউনিয়ানের এই সংবিধানটি যে লন্ডন সরকারের ফাইলে গোছানো পাওয়া যায়, সেটিই হচ্ছে সরকারের নজরদারির লক্ষণ।

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 7.37.33 PM১৯৩২ সালে বম্বে প্রেসিডেন্সির চিফ ম্যাজিস্ট্রেট, ইউনিয়ানের সভাপতি এম.আর. সেট্টি এবং দুই অন্য শ্রমিক নেতাকে রাষ্ট্রদ্রোহ ও “ক্লাস ঘৃণা” সৃষ্টি করার দোষে এক বছর কারাবাসে দণ্ডিত করেন। রাষ্ট্রের অভিযোগ যে মে দিবসের বক্তৃতায় প্রায় ৬০০ শ্রমিকের সমাবেশকে উদ্দেশ্য করে ডাঃ সেট্টি ভারতবর্ষের লুণ্ঠনে রাষ্ট্রকে দায়ী করেন, এবং পুঁজিবাদী ও জমিদারদের থেকে “আন্তর্জাতিক স্বাধীনতার” দাবি জানান। বাকি দুই বক্তার বিরুদ্ধে অভিযোগ ছিল যে তাঁরা সাম্রাজ্যবাদের বিরোধিতা করার জন্য “শ্রমিক রাজের” দাবি করেন, “পুঁজিবাদীদের বিকল করার” জন্য সাধারণ ধর্মঘট ও কৃষক সভার প্রয়োজন ব্যক্ত করেন, এবং কংগ্রেস ও বঙ্গের বিপ্লবীদের পথ ত্যাগ করে ভারতীয় কমিউনিস্ট পার্টির প্রতিষ্ঠাতা এম.এন. রায়ের নীতির অনুসরণ করে শ্রমিকদের চলার নির্দেশ দেন।

১৯৩২ এ, মে দিবসের কয়েক মাস আগে ডক্‌ ওয়ার্কার্স ইউনিয়ানের ধর্মঘটে প্রায় ১০০০ জন কুলি কাজ থামিয়ে, তাঁদের শ্রমের চুক্তি করার জন্য দালালের ব্যবহারের বিরুদ্ধে প্রতিবাদ জানান। তাঁরা বক্তব্য রাখেন যে যথোচিত মাইনের মাত্র ২৫ শতাংশ তাঁরা হাতে পান- বাকি সব যায় দালালদের কাছে। সেই যাত্রা স্ট্রাইকের দরুন তাৎক্ষনিক সাফল্য লাভ না করলেও, ভবিষ্যতে শ্রমিকদের অধিকার চেতনা ও শক্তি বাড়ানর কাজে এই ইউনিয়ানটি অতি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ এক ভূমিকা পালন করে। ১৯৩২ এ যেই টাইম্‌স অফ ইন্ডিয়ার পাতায় ইউনিয়ানের “কমিউনিস্ট উপাদান” দের পিকেট লাইনে বিশ্বস্ত শ্রমিকদের হুমকি দেওয়ার ও উৎপীড়িত করার অভিযোগে নিন্দা করা হতো, সেই খবরের কাগজেই ১৯৪১ সালে দালালি ব্যবস্থার অন্তর্নিহিত “অনিষ্ট” বৈশিষ্ট্যের বিবরণ দেখা যায়। ১৯৩৯ সালে ইস্ট ইন্দিয়া কটন অ্যাশোশিয়েসান অবশেষে সেরাং ও টিন্ডালের দালালি প্রথা বাতিল করে নিজেদেরকেই বাহবা দেন- দালালদের বিপদ দূর হওয়া এবং শ্রমিকদের আয় প্রায় ৩০ শতাংশ বেড়ে যাওয়ার জন্য নাকি “ট্রাস্টিদের উদ্যোগ ও বাহাদুরি” দায়ী। বম্বের শ্রমিক আন্দোলনে বম্বে ডক্‌ ওয়ার্কার্স ইউনিয়ানের ভূমিকা প্রকাশ্যে স্বীকার না করলেও, সরকার ও জাহাজের কোম্পানি দুইই ইউনিয়ানের ক্ষমতা কে সীমাবদ্ধ করতে উৎসুক ছিল। ধর্মঘটের ঊর্ধ্বে তাঁদের বিশেষ চিন্তার কারণ ছিল কংগ্রেস বয়কটে জাহাজ-ঘাটা কুলিদের সহযোগিতার সম্ভাবনা।

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 7.44.55 PM

এই প্রকারের দমনের আবহাওয়ার মাঝে, ঔপনিবেশিক আইন ও পুলিসের ক্ষমতার বিরুদ্ধে দাঁড়িয়ে, ইউনিয়ানের ইংরেজি সংবিধানের বই-এ সাম্যবাদের প্রত্যক্ষ উল্লেখ না করাই স্বাভাবিক। তবুও, ইংরেজি সংস্করণে বিপ্লবী স্লোগান বাদ থাকা সত্ত্বেও, ইউনিয়ানের নিয়মের ভাষায় তাদের রাজনীতির পরিচয় স্পষ্ট পাওয়া যায়। উদাহরণ হিশেবে ন্যাশানাল সিমেন্স্‌ ইউনিয়ান অফ ইন্দিয়ার সংবিধানের সঙ্গে তুলনা করুন: নাবিকদের ইউনিয়ানের বিবৃত উদ্দেশ্য হচ্ছে “ইউনিয়ান সদস্যদের মধ্যে ঐক্য, মৈত্রী, ও আত্মনির্ভরতার সম্পর্ক তৈরি করা” এবং “ভারতবর্ষে ও বাইরে শ্রমিক শ্রেণীকে সাহায্য করা”। তার তুলনায় বম্বে ডক্‌ ওয়ার্কার্স ইউনিয়ানের উদ্দেশ্যগুলি আরো কিছুটা শ্রেণী সচেতন ও আমূল: “শ্রমিকদের স্বার্থের একত্ব প্রকাশ্যে আনার আন্দোলন ও প্রচারণার মাধ্যমে শ্রমিকদের মধ্যে সংহতি ও শ্রেণী সচেতনতা গড়ে তোলা” এবং “শ্রমিক শ্রেণীর সমৃদ্ধি ও প্রগতির লক্ষে নিবেদিত সকল আন্দোলনের সাহায্য করা”।

 বম্বে ডক্‌ ওয়ার্কার্স ইউনিয়ানের নেতৃত্বের গঠনও একটি চর্চার বিষয়। ১৯৩৫ সালে একাধিক সম্প্রদায়ের পুরুষ এবং মহিলা মিলিয়ে ছিল ইউনিয়ানের নেতাদের দল- এম.আর. সেট্টি, দীন মোহাম্মেদ, মোহাম্মেদ ইব্রাহিম ও মিস্‌ মানিবেন কারা। এই প্রকারের বন্দর শ্রমিকদের ইউনিয়ান এবং আরো বিস্তৃত ভাবে বম্বে শহরের জাহাজ-ঘাটার কুলি, লস্কর ও নাবিকদের ইতিহাস ভীষণই অল্প অন্বেষিত। ইতিহাসের পাতায় এই শুন্য স্থানটি ভরার প্রয়োজন তো আছে বটেই। তার সঙ্গে ঐতিহাসিকের দায়িত্ব, বন্দর শ্রমিকদের ও ইউনিয়ান নেতাদের বহুভাশিক দুনিয়া ও আন্দোলনের ইতিহাসে ভাষা ও ক্ষমতার খেলার প্রতি সূক্ষ্ম মনোযোগ উৎসর্গ করা।

বম্বের বন্দর শ্রমিকদের বিষয়ে আরো জানতে চাইলে, মারিয়াম দোশালের লেখা ‘Godistolis and mathadis: dock workers of Bombay’ প্রবন্ধটি পড়তে পারেন।

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India – Why #Aadhaar anger is not without Aadhaar


While the dominant memory of 2016 was running for cash, this year was spent chasing, or being chased by, both public and private service providers who wanted you to link to Aadhaar or else… The dire threats transformed the 12-digit number from a voluntary facility for users to a sign of our submission to the power of the state. And that’s why 2017 is the…

An abiding memory of 2017 is that of being actively pursued by Aadhaar by every service provider that one has been dealing with. It began with pleas to connect one’s account/credit card/mobile phone to one’s Aadhaar number, that turned into requests that became urgent reminders before morphing into demands, and moved quickly into warnings before settling into the form of dire threats. Never has the government wanted anything this badly from us. Given that the question of the mandatory nature of Aadhaar is pending in court, the state’s persistence gives rise to suspicions, even among those that would normally have no particular ideological position on the question of privacy.

Paradoxically, while Aadhaar is increasingly being used as a certificate of identity, it is in truth a weak instrument given the reality of its usage. It is after all simply a print out, without a hologram or a mark of authenticity, and can be easily falsified. It is not, by design, a proof of address or of citizenship, but it gets used in these contexts. And this is without accounting for the security concerns and possibilities of data leakage and misuse that many critics worry about. It is perplexing as to why it is being oversold when its limitations for this purpose are so obvious.

It appears that the state is not as interested in its actual everyday efficiency as much as in its potential use. For the purpose for which it is being used, it has obvious limitations, but for the purpose for which it can be used by the state, the possibilities are endless. It might be a weak instrument in the way in which it is used today, but it is potentially a powerful weapon.

It certainly did not start this way. As a member of a committee looking at the task of branding UID when it was first conceived, one can vouch for the fact that in the early discussions, there was no hint of Aadhaar taking the shape it has. It was always spoken of through the lens of entitlement which was in line with the policy approach followed by the previous government. It was meant only to be a direct pipeline, without leakages, that linked the state with the individual by giving her an identity that was irrefutable. The very idea of thinking about branding and the programme was rooted in the need that was felt to market the idea so as to invite voluntary enrolment.

Conceptually, in its current form, Aadhaar is like a master key to the self that is handed over not only to the state, but in part, also to private sector players. The state has a right to patrol the boundaries of our lives and to pull us up in appropriate ways when we cross the lines that have laid down. When, in the name of keeping us in check, it begins to examine all our lives, then it oversteps its role. The implicit assumption is that we are all presumed suspicious all the time without exception. In the world of Aadhaar, we are known by our fingerprints, and it is a measure of how deeply the idea of surveillance has been normalised that we do not react more violently to this idea.

Privacy is the ability to fragment our lives into pieces with varying degrees of public visibility. Nobody watches us all the time, and so we can construct a life for ourselves that only we are fully privy to. The reason we do not mind other documents that certify some things about us, is because they are used in specific contexts for specific reasons. The problem with Aadhaar is that it is an omnibus all-access pass that we are giving the state to our lives.

Increasingly, the state is imagined as the air we breathe, as an enclosing ecosystem within which we are contained. This is a constructed mental model that has insidiously become our default view that needs to be resisted. We don’t live ‘inside’ the state; we are not its fully compliant subjects. The state is an enabling mechanism, not a confining one. The agency that the state exercises is the one that its citizens grant it.

The paradox is that while the state is so keen to track our actions, it is becoming increasingly averse to sharing information about itself. This is altogether curious, because in a democracy, the state is accountable to the citizen much more than the other way around. In India, we have seen the state systematically sidestepping the provisions of the RTI act, and refusing to share its inner workings transparently.

It boils down to the asymmetry of power. The powerful clam up, and force the others to share information that further consolidates their power. The trouble with Aadhaar today is that far from being a facility for its users, it has become a sign of our submission to the power of the state. As an instrument of entitlement, which is voluntary in nature, a unique identification system like Aadhaar can be invaluable in the Indian context, but today, the overriding concern seems to be to use it to track citizens as they go about their everyday lives. The dangers of Aadhaar in its current form, regardless of which government is in power, cannot be overstated.

Aadhaar has failed on three fronts that were first used to justify it: efficiency, corruptionbusting, and inclusion

Biometrics are not foolproof, and they have been copied and stored, making identity theft and fraud a real possibility. Fingerprints don’t work for many people including the elderly, disabled and those who do manual work and iris scanners are too expensive for large-scale use

Touts and middlemen have been involved in the getting and using of Aadhaar numbers. There have been instances of it being used by banking correspondents to embezzle money

Because of patchy connectivity and biometrics not working, people have fallen out of the welfare net. Citizens have been denied rations and pensions in several states. Private providers like hospitals have turned away patients for failing to provide Aadhaar information

Private parties have been using Aadhaarenabled databases — for example, companies that promise to authenticate employees, PAN verification, police record checks and so on. There are no clear consent protocols for private companies using and profiting from your biometric data. While entities have been penalised for misusing Aadhaar data, these afterthe-event penalties do not inspire much confidence in data security

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India – Stifling The Truth- Cover-up after the Gorakhpur tragedy


At around 4 pm on 10 August, hours before the oxygen supply at a hospital affiliated to Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College ran out, I received a WhatsApp message. The message showed a photo of a letter, written by the operators of the hospital’s oxygen-supply plant, warning the authorities that the supply was running dangerously low. “If oxygen is not arranged immediately,” the operators wrote, “it would threaten the lives of the patients admitted in all the wards.” After verifying this information with a couple of sources at the hospital, I published this story on the local-news website I run, Gorakhpur Newsline, at around 5 pm. The letter had also reached some print publications, but by the time the report appeared in newspapers the next day, 23 children and 8 adults had lost their lives.

The incident drew wide attention from both local and national media. However, within a few days of the tragedy, the coverage had lost its bearings. The details—what had caused the event and who was responsible for it—were obscured by many media outlets, perhaps deliberately. Since I have been reporting on the incident, I have talked to dozens of people associated with it and accessed several documents related to it. The information I have gathered can help construct a detailed chronology of what preceded the tragedy. This account makes it clear that the deaths happened because of negligence at several levels, including those of the hospital authorities, government officials and politicians. It also proves that not only have sections of the media helped the government in shielding those responsible, they have even aided it in making a scapegoat of a man who, in all likelihood, was innocent.

In mid July, Pushpa Sales—the company that supplied oxygen to the hospital—wrote letters to hospital and government authorities, including the principal of the medical college, Rajeev Mishra, Gorakhpur’s district magistrate, Rajeev Rautela, the principal secretary for medical education, Anita Jain Bhatnagar, and the director general of medical education, KK Gupta. These letters point to the fact that, for at least six months, the hospital run by the Uttar Pradesh government had been irregular in its payments to Pushpa Sales, which itself obtained oxygen from INOX Air Products, a company based in Worli, Mumbai. In a letter dated 18 July, Dipankar Sharma, an executive at Pushpa Sales, wrote:

For six months, several written and verbal warnings regarding outstanding payments have been given … At present, due to pending dues of Rs 5744336, INOX Company has instructed that the supply of oxygen be halted. Until an amount of Rs 40 lakh is paid, INOX will not supply oxygen. As per the agreement, the payment should be made within 15 days of the bill being presented. But the payments are not being made as per the agreement. Why are they being made with delays of six months.

When the company received neither payment nor a response, on 30 July, it issued a legal notice to BRD Medical College, alleging that the institute had violated the terms of its agreement with Pushpa Sales and INOX India. The legal notice, too, did not receive an official response. On 1 August, Sharma wrote another letter, in which he noted that the company may soon be sending the last dispatch of oxygen. He wrote:

As of today, 1 August, the outstanding payment due is Rs 6365702.00. Despite aforesaid standing amount, keeping the welfare of the patients in mind, a supply of oxygen that will last 4-5 days has been ensured.

On 8 August, Sharma wrote the last letter on behalf of Pushpa Sales.

The outstanding dues as of today are Rs 6858596.00. It is to be noted that the stock of oxygen in the plant will only last 2-3 days. The company has earlier informed via the notice dated 30 July that, due to the non-payment of dues, INOX India has stopped the supply of oxygen. It is requested that an arrangement for an appropriate number of jumbo cylinders be made.

No government or hospital official responded to any of these letters.

At around 11 am, on the morning of 10 August, Krishan Kumar, Kamlesh Tiwari and Balwant Gupta, the oxygen-supply plant operators employed at the BRD Medical College, arrived to take a reading of the oxygen stock. The three were shocked to see the reading on the metre: 900 millimetres per water column. This had never happened before—it was mandatory to fill the liquid-oxygen tank as soon as the reading reached 4,500 millimetres per water column, Sharma told me. The operators immediately wrote a letter—by hand—to the head of the paediatric division. This is the letter I received in the WhatsApp message.

A majority of the patients admitted to the BRD Medical College go to the paediatric ward. The department has a total of 230 beds, of which 40 are for neonatal care. Nearly half the hospital’s oxygen supply is delivered to this ward, where newborns with grave conditions such as encephalitis are admitted.

The operators’ warning went unheeded. The principal of the medical college had gone on leave that same day. The head of the anaesthesiology department, who is effectively in charge of the oxygen supply, too, went on leave on 11 August.

On the evening of 10 August, by the time the clock struck 7.30, the pressure in the liquid oxygen supply had dropped significantly. There were 52 jumbo oxygen cylinders in reserve at the time. In the absence of a liquid-oxygen supply, the 100-bed encephalitis ward and the 54-bed epidemic ward would have needed at least 250 cylinders. An attempt was made to keep up the oxygen supply to the wards with the cylinders in reserve, and a few more cylinders were obtained over the next 24 hours, but these were not enough. As a result, the patients in these wards—newborns with encephalitis or infections contracted at birth, as well as the adult patients in the epidemic ward—slowly began to die. By night-time on 11 August, 34 children and 18 adults lost their lives.

Most of the deaths took place within six or seven hours of the discontinuation of the liquid-oxygen supply on 10 August. By 7 pm, the media had gathered at the college. Speaking to the media, District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela denied that the deaths had occurred due to a shortage in the oxygen supply. “At least 18, 20 people die here everyday,” Rautela said. “The number of deaths was normal. … But we will still investigate. A committee of four officers has been constituted. Strict action will be taken against those found responsible.”

On 12 August, the state’s health minister, Sidharth Nath Singh, and the minister for medical education, Ashutosh Tandon, visited the college. The two informed reporters that “many children die in August”—a statement that was widely condemned. Presenting the previous year’s statistics regarding child deaths, they said that the number of deaths had, in fact, gone down. Tandon announced that the principal of the college would be suspended. In the evening, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath, held a press conference in Lucknow, in which he denied that the deaths occurred due to a shortage of oxygen. He announced that the state’s chief secretary would lead an investigation into the deaths. Adityanath said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was disturbed by the incident.

At this point, the media started reporting on the various reminders that had been sent by Pushpa Sales to the hospital. All the officials to whom the letters had been addressed washed their hands of any responsibility. The chief minister’s office said that it had written a letter to the principal of the college regarding the depleting supply on 1 August. The principal said that he wrote a letter to the director general of medical education on 4 August, and, the next day, an amount of Rs 2 crore was released. However, there was no clear explanation for why the payment had not been made until 11 August. The minister for medical education, Tandon, said that he did not receive any letter from the oxygen suppliers.

Apart from the principal of the college, other recipients of the notices from Pushpa Sales were not held accountable. While Anita Jain Bhatnagar has been transferred to another department, Rajeev Rautela and KK Gupta have simply formed committees to inquire into this matter.

At this point, the media also began reporting on one doctor’s efforts to save lives during the crisis. Kafeel Khan, who was in charge of the encephalitis ward, had made several last-ditch efforts to obtain oxygen cylinders and even used his own money to pay for them. Khan visited the headquarters of the central armed police force Sashastra Seema Bal, or SSB, and asked the jawans to come to the hospital to help him. An SSB vehicle was used to bring more oxygen cylinders. Against the grim backdrop of the multiple deaths, the doctor’s actions garnered some praise on social media.

On 13 August, Adityanath and the union health minister, JP Nadda, visited the BRD Medical College. The two requested the media to refrain from “fake reporting,” and wait for the chief secretary’s report. “Stern action will be taken against the culprits,” Adityanath said. “They will not be spared.”

It is at this point that the reportage on Gorakhpur took a bizarre turn. Khan was abruptly removed from his position as the nodal officer in-charge of the encephalitis ward, and accused of running a private practice and enjoying false praise from the media. The media also shifted its focus, from the shortage of oxygen causing deaths to the doctor. “Revelations” against him emerged on social media and on obscure websites, and traditional media started reporting these. The deaths, their families’ distress, the salaries of the BRD Medical college workers and the budget for the supply—all these causes were sidelined.

The media, in what looked like an orchestrated campaign, blamed Khan, along with the principal of the college, and turned them into villains. It was reported that the doctor had connections with the Samajwadi Party and the Congress. Dharamveer Singh, who worked for the Hindvi, a now-defunct newspaper brought out by Adityanath, published a post on Facebook, from the website The post was titled: “How the System Failed: Sitting at Home, Principal’s Wife Was Calling Shots At the Medical College.” The same day, Singh wrote a sarcastic post, seemingly mocking the media: “It is rightly said that the media can bring down governments. With its power, it can transform any villain into a hero.” The post was accompanied by a news report that alleged that Khan had been charged with rape in the past, and a photo of a signboard with his name—seeming to claim that this was proof that he ran an illegal private practice.

Even as the number of published reports slandering Khan grew, news of a purportedly grief-stricken chief minister began doing the rounds. We were told in news reports that Adityanath’s eyes had welled up as soon as he entered the encephalitis ward at the college. Various others reported that the chief minister was visibly disturbed even during the press conference. The last question at his press conference was regarding doctors’ private practices. The chief minister’s face hardened. He responded that there would be a strict enquiry into them.

To those watching carefully, Adityanath’s response made it amply clear: a scapegoat for the scandal had been found. On 13 August, Kafeel Khan was all over Hindi news channels. Zee News, which had earlier accused the Adityanath government of being a “kaatil sarkar”—a murderous government—aired a bulletin titled “Kal Nayak, Khalnayak”—yesterday’s hero, today’s villain. The misinformation-filled bulletin, which even named Khan as the vice principal of the college, alleged that he had stolen oxygen cylinders from the hospital and that he was running a private practice. India TV’s long headline summed up the coverage—“The Biggest Betrayal: The Truth About Kafeel Khan; CM Choked Up; Whose Betrayal Brought Tears to the CM’s Eyes?” The story claimed that Khan had betrayed the chief minister. Khan, the bulletin alleged, took a commission from the oxygen suppliers and was the reason behind the delay in payment. As a local reporter who investigated the allegations against Khan, I know that the media coverage villainising him worked as a distraction from uncomfortable questions about the incident.

Aaj Tak ran reports under the headline “Action Begins With Yogi’s Visit.” The reports peddled the same false information. It said Khan was the vice principal of the college and the head of its paediatric department, and that he had now been removed from both positions. On 14 August, Newsworld reported that Khan “used his proximity with certain journalists to make himself out to be the hero,” and that he was hoarding oxygen cylinders in his private clinic.

Most Hindi channels ran similar reports on Khan, often with interviews from KK Gupta, who, as director general of medical education, had been one of the recipients of letters from Pushpa Sales. Gupta gave bites to several channels in which he said that Khan had admitted to having a stock of oxygen cylinders in his private practice. “When the stock had 52 cylinders, what good would Khan have done by bringing three cylinders?” Gupta jokingly told news correspondents. After all, it was the media who had made Khan out to be a hero, he told reporters.

Most details included in these reports were blatantly untrue. The 34-year-old doctor was neither the vice principal, nor the head of the paediatric department. He was not the head of the purchasing committee and it was not his responsibility to oversee the oxygen supply. This responsibility was that of Satish Kumar, a doctor in the anaesthesiology department, who is now under arrest. Khan had been serving as the in-charge of the encephalitis ward for about a year and was an assistant professor in the paediatric department. His job was limited to overseeing the treatment of the patients in the ward.

I can testify that there was truth to reports about Khan’s heroics on the day. I had arrived at the hospital on the morning of 11 August, when there was only one other media person—a photographer for Dainik Jagran—present on the premises. I witnessed Khan trying to treat patients and making last-ditch attempts to acquire oxygen cylinders. The account of Khan’s visit to the SSB headquarters, published in Dainik Jagran, has been confirmed by an SSB official.

On 2 September, Khan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on several charges, including criminal negligence, corruption and running a private practice. On 24 November, the police charged Khan and Mishra, the former principal of the college, with criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder. Khan was cleared of the charges of corruption and running a private practice. However, the very fact that he had been charged with running a private practice at all was significant—while it is certainly a grave accusation, it is common knowledge that most doctors in government medical colleges in the state run such practices. To make an issue out of one doctor’s private practice was selective. Even three months after the incident, no other doctor who runs a private practice has been investigated. It is quite clear that Khan was not picked out for any role he might have played in the event or for running a private practice. What is more likely is that the state’s government could not digest the fact that he was being hailed as a hero. Given that Adityanath has in the past expressed blatantly Islamophobic sentiments, many in the media have speculated that Khan’s religion may have played a role in his being targeted. At any rate, the media’s deflections on Khan’s supposed role in the incident obscured the various reasons for which it occurred. It failed to examine the larger context in which such events occur, including structural problems at district hospitals and medical colleges, the role of the government, low health budgets and poor equipment.

In the second half of August, following heavy rainfall, Gorakhpur and surrounding districts were covered by a terrible deluge as overflowing rivers had damaged dams in the area. The media, in turn, bombarded us with photos of Adityanath, perched on a boat, wearing a life jacket and participating in rescue operations. Everyone moved on.

(This article was translated from Hindi by Surabhi Kanga.)

This article first appeared in Caravan Magazine

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India Muslim man beaten to death ‘over New Year music’ #WTFnews

Angry crowds in JharkhandImage copyrightNIRAJ SINHA
Image captionAngry crowds gathered to protest against the killing

A Muslim has been beaten to death in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand after reportedly asking a group to stop playing loud music on New Year’s Day.

The incident happened in Mandar, a town close to the state capital, Ranchi.

People blocked the national motorway on Tuesday to demand the arrest of suspects but the blockade was eventually cleared by police.

Extra security personnel have been deployed in the area to keep the peace between Muslim and Hindu communities.

Waseem Ansari, 19, worked as a daily wage labourer in Pune and had returned to his village a couple of days ago.

Angry crowds in JharkhandImage copyrightNIRAJ SINHA
Image captionPolice have asked the communities to avoid any violence

A senior police officer gave BBC Hindi an account of the incident: “Preliminary inquiry suggests that a group was playing loud music to celebrate New Year’s Day.

“Waseem Ansari and two of his friends approached the group and told them to stop playing loud music. This led to an argument and Waseem was attacked by the group. It seems he was hit by one of the sharp instruments used in cooking.

“We have requested the two communities maintain peace. The suspects will be arrested soon.”

Hasibul Ansari, who lives in the same village as the victim, told BBC Hindi: “These people were partying near a Muslim graveyard. When Waseem told them to stop, they killed him.

“His friends were lucky that they managed to escape in time. I am very sure they would have been killed too if they had not escaped.”

Correspondents say there are fears that communal and religious divisions are widening in India, with minorities feeling they are not sufficiently protected.

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Two Hindutva leaders booked on charges of ‘orchestrating ‘ #BhimaKoregaonViolence

The FIR was registered at Pimpri police station against Bhide, Ekbote and their supporters, and was later sent to Pune Rural Police, which has Koregaon Bhima under its jurisdiction.

A criminal case was filed on Tuesday against two pro-Hindutva leaders, Milind Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi, and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, under charges of orchestrating violence during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on Monday.

Bhide (85) is a resident of Sangli, while Ekbote (60) lives in Pune. Both of them enjoy a sizeable following across Maharashtra, especially among the youth. On Tuesday, several leaders, including Dalit leader and Bharatiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar, accused the two of hatching a conspiracy to trigger the violence, which had led to the death of a 30-year-old man.

The FIR was registered at Pimpri police station against Bhide, Ekbote and their supporters, and was later sent to Pune Rural Police, which has Koregaon Bhima under its jurisdiction. The complaint was filed by social worker Anita Ravindra Salve (39), a member of the Bahujan Republican Socialist Party.


In her complaint, Salve claimed that when she and a friend reached Sanaswadi near Bhima Koregaon on Monday, some people snatched their flags away and burnt them, and they were also assaulted. “I have seen that the accused (Bhide and Ekbote and their supporters) were doing all this… stones were being pelted and police were also being attacked,” she stated in her complaint.

A Pune Rural Police official said that a probe has been launched into the allegations made by Salve. Bhide, known as Bhide Guruji across Maharashtra, is an ardent follower of Chhatrapati Shivaji and is followed by thousands of youths. A post-graduate in physics, Bhide had taught briefly at a college in Pune before starting his organisation. Bhide and members of his organisation have been booked in connection with several cases earlier.

Ekbote, a former corporator, has faced several cases of breach of preventive orders. Members of his outfit are also alleged to have intercepted hundreds of vehicles carrying cows.

Both of them have been booked under IPC sections on attempt to murder, rioting and relevant sections of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. In a statement on Tuesday, Ekbote condemned the violence in Koregaon Bhima, and claimed that the case against him was completely false. He said people were being “deliberately misled to create communal tension”.

Meanwhile, Awinash Marakale, a member of Bhide’s organisation, said, “In Samast Hindu Aghadi, we have people from different communities…”. He added, “Bhide Guruji has been falsely implicated and has nothing to do with the issue”.

Meanwhile, a complaint application was received at Deccan police station against newly-elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and student leader from JNU Umar Khalid, who were both speakers at the Elgaar Parishad held in Shaniwarwada on December 31, for allegedly inciting people through their “provocative speeches”. Akshay Bikkad (22) and Anand Dhond (25) have filed the complaints, demanding registration of criminal offences against them, on charges of “promoting enmity”. Senior Inspector Ajay Kadam said the application would be forwarded to Vishrambag police station.



Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote: the two who brought Mumbai to a halt
The two desecrated the samadhi of a Dalit icon near Pune on December 29, sparking the riots that engulfed Mumbai on Tuesday and could put the city in a gridlock today.

At the center of all the trouble Mumbai faced on Tuesday and the spectre of a complete shut-down it faces today are two men who could view the state-wide chaos they have caused as something of a trophy.

This is not the first time Sambhaji Bhide, 85, better known as Bhide Guruji, and Milind Ekbote, 56, have stirred the ‘us vs them’ pot. In 2008, Bhide was in national spotlight when his followers ransacked movie halls protesting against the release of movie Jodha-Akbar. In 2009, he brought his hometown Sangli to a standstill when a Ganesh pandal was denied permission to put up an artiste’s impression of the assassination of Adil Shah’s army commander Afjal Khan by Shivaji Maharaj.

Ekbote has 12 cases of rioting, trespassing, criminal intimidation, and attempts to spread enmity between two communities against him. He has been convicted in five of these cases. During his first term as a BJP corporator in Pune between 1997 and 2002, he had come to fisticuffs with a Muslim corporator over the construction of Haj house.

This time, Bhide and Ekbote have ranged the Hindutva forces against the Dalits in the state. They achieved this by desecrating the samadhi of a Mahar named Govind Gaikwad who is credited with performing Shivaji Maharaj’s son Sambhajiraje Bhosale’s funeral when nobody else would touch the body as it could have invited the Mughals’ wrath.

Bhide and Ekbote’s beef with the legend of Govind Gaikwad is that it’s a narrative spun by the Britishers. They believe that Sambhajiraje Bhosale’s last rites were performed by Marathas and the duo has demanded a governmentsponsored study to establish the facts.

The timing of their ransacking of the samadhi located in a village named Wadhu in Pune district was telling. They desecrated the Samadhi on December 29, knowing fully well that thousands of Dalits would gather on January 1at a nearby village called Bhima-Koregaon to celebrate the anniversary of the defeat of the Peshva army at the hands of British forces comprising mainly Dalit soldiers.

The riots that started in Bhima-Koregaon as Hindutva activists led a procession to the village, where Dalits had gathered for the annual commemoration of the battle, spread soon to Pune and have since engulfed the entire state. Though an FIR has been lodged against both Bhide and Ekbote, nobody is surprised that they have not been arrested yet. Both have deep links with the RSS and wield considerable clout within the ruling dispensation in the state and at the Centre.

In 2014, when Narendra Modi launched his campaign to become the prime minister, he visited Bhide at his house in Sangli and touched his feet. Later, at a public rally Modi declared: “I did not come to Sangli on my own, but I was given orders by Bhide Guruji to visit your city and here I am.”

Ekbote’s entire family is associated with the RSS. He was a BJP corporator in Pune from 1997 to 2002. Denied a ticket, he fought as an independent for a second term and won. He lost the corporation election in 2007 and to stay relevant floated Hindu Ekta Manch the same year. The Manch has since been at the forefront of anti-Valentine’s Day protests. In 2014, he contested assembly elections on a Shiv Sena ticket and lost. Ekbote’s sister-in-law Jyotsna Ekbote is a sitting BJP corporator in Pune.

Bhide has a huge fan following in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara, especially among the youth. Fighting fit even at 85, he walks barefoot, rides a bicycle around the town, travels in state-run buses, and doesn’t own a house. An M.Sc. in nuclear physics and a gold medalist, Bhide was a professor of physics at Pune’s Fergusson College before he joined the RSS as a pracharak. In the 1980s, he floated his own organisation called Shiva Pratishthan Hindustan to spread the message the life of Shivaji Maharaj. His talks on the lives of Shivaji Maharaj and his heir Sambhaji Maharaj often brim with hatred for a minority community.

Both Bhide and Ekbote till December 29 were not known to be anti-Dalit. Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasheb Ambedkar, expressed surprise at the duo’s involvement in the desecration of Gaikwad’s samadhi. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Ekbote said: “I am saddened by the inconvenience caused to Dalits due to rioting after their visit to Bhima-Koregaon and we condemn the act of rioting.” He added that his organisation considers Dr. Ambedkar and Lahuji Vastad (19th century Dalit warrior who fought against Brits) as icons and that a large number of Dalit activists are a part of Hindu Ekta Manch.

What do they say about actions being louder than words?


Over 200 buses (BEST, state transport, TMC) and 100 cars damaged

20 taxis and autos wrecked

84 Harbour Line services cancelled

7 people, including 4 cops, injured

100 detained over the violence

Eastern Express Highway was blocked for nearly 7 hours

Call for State bandh today

Mumbai  Mirror and IE

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