Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dalits veering towards Naxalites ?

Nandu R Kulkarni

MUMBAI, Nov. 10: The massacre of four Dalits – a woman, her two sons and a daughter-by upper caste Hindus at Khairlanji in Bhandara District, about 100 km from Nagpur, on 29 September which was handled casually by police is
now a big law and order problem for the Maharashtra government as protesting Dalits demanding speedy justice have turned violent at several places in Vidrabha region particularly Nagpur.

The city remained shut today even as the state government said that the Naxalites provoked Dalits to turn violent. Sporadic violence in various parts of Vidrabha since 6 November has shocked the Congress-led Democratic Front government. The deputy chief minister, Mr RR Patil, read a bigger and ominous warning lurking behind the protest taking violent turn.

Based on his briefing by the Nagpur police and state Intelligence, he said Dalits are gradually gravitating under the Naxalite influence.

Following his visit to Khairlanji, he said that Dalits were provoked by the Naxalites. Mr Patil said: “The Maoist are using the incident to spread their influence among the weaker sections”, even as he took away the case from the local police and asked the state CID to investigate the killings in the Bhotmange family.

In a belated gesture, the government gave the only survivor Mr Bhailal Bhotmange Rs six lakh compensation and offered him a job in the state administration.
The CPI-M leader, Mrs Brinda Karat, who visited the site of massacre flayed the government’s contention of Naxalites instigating the Dalits to start violent protest against police. She said the protest was spontaneous. Mrs Karat has demanded a CBI investigation. Mr Deshmukh who visited Khairlanji today said he was not averse to a CBI probe.

There is no let up in the protest although the government suspended two constables and arrested one. The home minister claimed that 44 arrests had been made. The Nagpur police apparently briefed Mr Patil about growing influence of Naxalites among the weaker sections or the Dalits. Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange has declined a job offered to him by the Maharashtra government. The government said the violent protest 40 days after the massacre suggests that Dalits had been provoked by Naxalites. The Nagpur police said a fortnight before the 6 November violent demonstrations, provocative posters had appeared in the region.

An old simmering land dispute in Khairlanji caused the massacre of Bhotmange family– save its head Bhaiyalal – -by upper caste Hindus on 29 September. Bhaiyalal survived as he had gone into hiding. Police are still clueless how the spontaneous protest started. It was Dalits who first took to Nagpur streets and the leaders from the various factions of the Republican Party of India or the Bahujan Samaj Party joined them later.

Three persons who allegedly provoked Dalits into violence were rounded up on Thursday. They are Ashu Saxena, Anil, Borkar and Sanjay Fuzele. The Nagpur police said they led the agitation in a typically Naxalite style which is called “vigilante justice.”

The region surrounding Nagpur is a stronghold of Naxalites. Police stated how they busted a clandestine “crude arms factory” in Nagpur last year.

That the government has suddenly woken up to the possibility of Naxalites appropriating the Dalit movement is clear from the visits to the region by the chief minister and deputy chief minister with sops to assuage the angry Dalits.
In another development, the CPI-M today sought the intervention of the Centre and demanded a CBI probe into the Khairlanji incident.

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