Dalit protests: Outfits at centre of Bharat Bandh refuse to take blame for arson
Bheem Sena and Meen Sena, the two organisations at the forefront of the April 2 nationwide strike in protest against the alleged dilution of a law safeguarding scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, were known little in Rajasthan until the protests turned violent on Monday.
They, however, refused to take the blame for the clashes during the strike in which a man died in Rajasthan. Elsewhere in Madhya Pradesh, eight people were killed and two men lost their lives in Uttar Pradesh.
The Rajasthan-based Meen Sena was founded by 40-year-old Pankaj Meena in 2015. It has been active in parts of the state’s Marwar region but was never a force to reckon with until the group’s name cropped up during Monday’s Bharat Bandh.
“We formed Meen Sena to raise issues related to the tribal population,” said Pankaj Meena, a double postgraduate in English literature as well business administration. He blamed the the administration for the violence. “We gave a notice for the bandh two days in advance but the district administration didn’t take it seriously. If people had kept their establishments closed, there wouldn’t have been any violence,” he said.
The Nagpur-headquartered Bheem Sena’s Rajasthan unit began taking shape two years ago. The organisation formed by Sridhar Salve in Maharashtra now has units in around eight Rajasthan districts.
Rajendra Meghwal, a member if the outfit, blamed “Manuwadi forces” for the clashes. “People who wanted to make our protest unsuccessful incited violence,” he said, adding that it was decided at a meeting called for the bandh to keep the protests peaceful.
“We even told our workers not to shout slogans against the Supreme Court or carry placards against the court. We didn’t want the protest to be unconstitutional,” Meghwal said.