'Why did they attack us? What was our fault?'
'They killed a woman. They burnt down vehicles.'
'They pelted stones at us over a 45 km stretch. There was no police bandobast.'
IMAGE: It wasn't only Mumbai that witnessed violent clashes on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. Aurangabad too saw violent protests in which public property was set on fire. Photograph: PTI Photo
Parts of Mumbai came to a near standstill on Tuesday, January 2 after Dalits blocked roads in several areas, forced shops to shut down and attacked a journalist from a television news channel.
The violence came after a woman died at an event on Monday, January 1, to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon in Pune district.
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar has called a Maharashtra bandh on Wednesday, January 3, to protest the state government's failure to stop Monday's violence.
Ambedkar, Dr B R Ambedkar's grandson, tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf that stones were pelted on the Dalits over a 45 kilometre stretch in Pune district as the police stood mute spectators.
Why have you called a Maharashtra bandh on Wednesday?
It is because of the police inaction related to Monday's violence in Pune.
People are already observing a bandh. Once you give a bandh call, then there will be no violence.
This is an opportunity for people: Whether they want to be Hindutva violent or whether they want peace.
If people want peace, then a bandh is a message for Hindutva forces.
Dalits are celebrating the British victory over Indians in the 1818 battle of Bhima Koregaon.
We are not celebrating the victory of the British; it is wrong to say that.
We are celebrating the defeat of the Peshwas who practised the worst kind of untouchability.
The rest of the country practised untouchability too, no doubt, but under the Peshwas, untouchability meant that Dalits had to tie a pot around their necks so that they could not spit on the road.
We consider that (the battle of Bhima Koregaon) a social liberation movement from caste prejudice.
Why was your agitation violent?
That is what we are asking those who have attacked us.
Why did they attack us? What was our fault?
They killed a woman. They burnt down vehicles.
They pelted stones at us over a 45 kilometre-long stretch. There was no police bandobast.
Those opposed to you say you exaggerate the atrocities against the Dalits under Peshwa rule.
I doubt they are literate. They must read the history of the Peshwas. They themselves have written that this system existed in their time.
This bandh you have called for -- isn't it illegal?
We are organising ourselves to express ourselves which is our Constitutional right.
Expression means a bandh also, and we have called for a bandh.
Dalit protestors attacked state transport buses and government property.
They are not only Dalits, there are non-Dalits too.
250 organisations all over Maharashtra celebrate this function (the battle of Bhima Koregaon).
We are telling them to shun violence. We are telling them to join Wednesday's bandh peacefully.
What do you think is the condition of Dalits under the BJP governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra?
Time and again, members from the ruling party and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh keep repeating that they will have Manuvadi Raj again, therefore there is so much unrest setting in.