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Maharashtra Dalit protests spread to Gujarat

Hundreds of Dalit community members gathered under the banner of Samast Ambedkar Samaj and took out a rally in Surat.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2018 22:08 IST
Press Trust of India, Surat
Maharashtra Dalit protests,Dalit protests,Gujarat
Rail Roko at Dadar Station by Dalits activists, in Mumbai, on Wednesday. (HT)

The protests by Dalits in Maharashtra spread to adjoining Gujarat on Wednesday, where members of the community took out a rally in Surat and shouted slogans outside the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office.

A Dalit group held a protest march in Udhna locality to express solidarity with the community members in Maharashtra over the caste violence in Pune district on January 1.

The Maharashtra bandh, however, was withdrawn later in the day.

Hundreds of Dalit community members gathered under the banner of Samast Ambedkar Samaj and took out a rally. They briefly staged a dharna in front of a stationary train at Udhna Railway Station and blocked a road, affecting the movement of traffic for a while.

Dalit groups had called for a bandh in Maharashtra to protest the violence over the bicentennial celebration of the Bhima-Koregaon battle near Pune.

“We organised a rally to express solidarity with the members of our community who protested against the violence near Pune.

“As per our plan, we took out the rally in Udhna and blocked a train and road traffic, and shouted slogans outside the BJP headquarters,” said Kunal Sonawane who led the protesting group.

Police said the protest was peaceful and no such agitation was reported from anywhere in the state.

Gujarat’s in-charge DGP Pramod Kumar said the Surat protesters had sought police permission to organise the march.

“Some 150-200 people had sought permission from the Commissioner of Police to organise a rally, and they were given permission for the same. No untoward incident was reported during the protest,” he told reporters.

Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja and senior police officials held a meeting to assess law and order situation in Gujarat following developments in Maharashtra. Kumar also participated in the meeting.

Violence erupted in Pune district when Dalit groups were celebrating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle in which the forces of the British East India Company defeated the Peshwa’s army. Right-wing groups have been blamed for the clashes which left one person dead.

Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory as it is believed soldiers from the Mahar community were part of the East India Company’s forces. The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of Dalit assertiveness.

First Published: Jan 03, 2018 22:05 IST

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