Redefining Peshwai in Contemporary India: Elgaar Parishad, Shanivarwada, Pune

Report from Ground Zero


“The new Brahmanical forces are not just Modi and Amit Shah but Ambani and Adani”

-Jignesh Mevani, MLA, Vadgam

It was a spectacular show of solidarity on the last evening of the year 2017 when newly elected MLA Jignesh Mevani, the mother of the late research scholar Rohith Vemula, Radhika Vemula, tribal rights activist Soni Sori, activist Ulka Mahajan, senior leader Prakash Ambedkar and others shared the stage together at the historic and bustling Shanivarwada in Pune, commemorating the bi-centenary year of the battle of Bhima Koregaon and resolved to fight the ‘Neo Peshwai’ unitedly. Shanirwada, coloquially and politically epitomises the hold of Brahmanical hegemony on the rest of Hindu society.
Thousands of Dalit Bahujan women and children gather every year at Bhima Koregaon, 30 kms away from Pune, to commemorate the valiant battle that a regiment of 500 Mahars fought against a strength of approximately 28,000 soldiers of the Peshwa Kingdom. This battle is especially remembered as a unique assertion of the Mahar identity against their oppressors-the Peshwa kings. On the occasion of the bi-centenary of Bhima Koregaon, the Elgaar Parishad ascertained that in contemporary India, the oppression against Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis and women has intensified and that there was a need to identify who the contemporary Peshwas.

Neo-Peshwas and Punishment
“The way my son and other scholars were punished was a discrimination against people of a particular caste in which the BJP played a vital role. These ministers killed my son. This is the new Peshwa.” said Radhika Vemula speaking to a full audience. She spoke about the various battles she fought at home against her own exploitation and gave a message to women to play a greater role in social movements against regressive forces.
To this, Umar Khalid responded, “They killed your son, but behold, several Rohiths have emerged!” He reminded that the city was remembered for the gallantry of the Bhima Koregaon warriors of the Mahar regiment who were very few in numbers and illustrated the relevance of a united force.
Attacks on Constitution
“We challenge you, you cannot amend the Constitution. Constitution is in our DNA. ” said Vinay Ratan Singh, the national president of the Bhim Army while stating that the basic premises (of equalityt and non-discrimination) enshrined in the constitution were under threat from the regressive forces of New-Peshwai and they must be fought against. Dontha Prashanth, who was also present on the occasion, asked, “We were socially boycotted because we had started reading Ambedkar and we wanted reservation to be implemented in a systematic manner. Is this not Peshwa Raj?” He said that after the brutalities suffered under the 200 year old Peshwa kingdom, what India is experiencing is Round Two of the Peshwa Raj. He criticised the present government for supporting anti reservation movements, and cutting down welfare schemes for Dalits and Bahujans.
Annihilation of Caste will Defeat Ideology of Sangh
Umar Khalid further added that the RSS, established in 1925, had great rapport with the British and identified Muslims as enemies. “Hegdewar of RSS talks against secularism. We can’t defeat Sangh till we fight casteism because the root of RSS is this very caste system.” He added. Pointing out the contradictions in prime minister Modi’s actions, he asked, “Though he goes around inaugurating statues of Ambedkar, does he know what Ambedkar said about Hindu Rashtra being the worst fate of the country?” He stressed that Muslims and Christians are not tenants who are “staying on rent” in India and are as much a citizen of the country as anyone else”

The fight is not just in the books anymore!
“When Jignesh won in Gujarat, I could feel the joy in Bastar” expressed Soni Sori, the Adivasi leader who travelled here all the way from Chhattisgarh. She appealed to people to look deeply into the plight of Adivasis and pointed out the increasing number of encounters, illegal detentions and the mass sexual exploitation of women in these regions. She said that her experiences arose from the practical experiences of dealing with these issues day in and day out. “When they inserted stones in my private parts, I did not abandon the path set in our Constitution, whether they killed my husband or attacked my house or compelled my mother to die, I never left the path that the Constitution has showed us. Babasaheb Ambedkar has given a great tool in our hands and we must utilise it for our emancipation!” she said in a forceful speech. 
The Battle on the Streets
Amidst huge applause, the newly elected MLA from Vadgam, Gujarat-Jignesh Mevani left the audience spell-bound with his wit and analogies. He said, “While the people were divided through the riots and violence (of 2002), precious land was being silently being transferred over to Ambanis and Adanis. Therefore, these are the real Brahmanical forces that have taken the form of the Neo Peshwai. They are the supremacist and imperialist forces.” He spoke about the need to talk about the issues of farmers, manual scavengers and other such marginalised groups without resorting to sectarianism. “The fight against the Neo-Peshwas will be fought on the streets and not just in Parliament,” asserted Mevani.
There were other cultural performances by groups like the Kabir Kala Manch. The program ended with a pledge to come together and fight the Neo Peshwai in the presence of Dalit leader, Prakash Ambedkar and grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. After this, many groups and organisations left for Bhima Koregaon to pay respects to the Mahar community members who fought the battle.
There they faced swords and violence of Brahmanical forces who were allowed to unleash their terror as a mute and insufficient police force watched. Sabrangindia reported on this yesterday from ground zero.

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