The resentment and the anguish had been simmering for several years. It just required a trigger to flare up. And the desecration of a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar in Kanpur lighted the fire in the Dalit pockets of Mumbai and elsewhere in the state.
The Khairlanji massacre and the ensuing violence were a prelude, but the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party leaders failed to see it.
There are reasons to believe that the protests in Maharashtra, which peaked with the death of three persons, torching of two trains, largescale damage and destruction of public vehicles and arson, are a fallout of the inept handling of the crisis. Four members of a Dalit family were butchered in the town, 1,000 km east of Mumbai.
The Dalits were angry with the delayed government reaction to the gruesome murder and the gangrape of two women in the family. The statewide protests early this month led to a few arrests and suspension of some police officers.
However, the lone survivor, Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, alleged that the "real culprits were moving around freely though he had given their names to deputy chief minister RR Patil."
The chain of events and the dismal socio-economic condition led to growing frustration among the Dalits. Despite reservations, the educated lot has not been able to get jobs, including the urban Dalits.
Anant Ramteke, a small-time businessman from Thane, said: "My Dalit brothers have a reason to protest. The government cannot afford to neglect us for long." Lack of decisive Dalit leadership is another bottleneck. Concurs senior Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Ambedkar and president of Bharipa Bahujan Party, "That is why the government gets away with everything."
Patil, however, refused to link the protests to the Khairlanji massacre. "We will probe the violence," was his refrain when pilloried by the media.
The protests are also an indication of the future in store for the government in the Assembly session beginning on December 4.
The violence might give the faction of the Republican Party of India an election plank.