New Delhi: Prakash Ambedkar, the Dalit leader who had called for Wednesday's Maharashtra shutdown against caste violence on January 1, has rebutted the centre's charge that an organised effort had been made to incite violence in the state. Instead, he blamed "some Hindutva groups" for triggering the initial round of violence, claiming that these groups were "bent upon creating chaos in the country" and "take control of the government of India".
Mr Ambedkar, who is also the grandson of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, also challenged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to identify those people involved in the violence. "I have given the name of people who were involved in the violent organisation... Today the government has filed an FIR against them," he told NDTV, hours after he called off the state-wide shutdown.
The former Lok Sabha member has accused leaders of two right-wing groups, Shivjagar Pratisthan president Sambhaji Bhide and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti president Milind Ekbote, for the January 1 violence targeting groups of Dalits and other weaker sections on their way to Bhima-Koregaon village, the venue for the bi-centennial celebrations of the Anglo-Maratha battle.
"These are organisations that are bent upon creating chaos in this country. Those who had come, they were Hindus. And these organisations were basically Hindu organisations. So what is the difference... Why were they beaten up?" he said.
"People might say that this is exaggerated but this is what they are trying to do. As Hafiz Saeed has taken control of Pakistan administration, these people want to take control of government of India... Their only intention is to create chaos in this country."
The Dalit leader said he had stepped in to call off the protests because "If we had not controlled it today, I don't know what would have happened in Maharashtra".
Several towns and cities in Maharashtra remained on the edge through Wednesday after angry protests accusing the police of inaction on Monday when people on their way to pay homage were attacked and nearly 40 vehicle damaged, allegedly by local right-wing groups. In the clashes that had broken out, Mr Ambedkar said one person had died and more than 12 injured.
Mr Ambedkar insisted that it wasn't just Dalits who were headed to the bi-centennial celebrations at Bhima-Koregaon village but other backward communities as well which wanted to pay their respect to those "who fought for their social freedom".
Clashes broke out on Monday while Dalit groups were celebrating 200 years of the Anglo-Maratha battle at Bhima-Koregaon near Pune. Dalits were part of the British forces and the Peshwas who were defeated were upper castes and Dalits celebrate January 1 as victory day. The two right-wing groups had opposed the Dalit celebrations, asking why a British victory was being celebrated.
There was "sporadic unrest" all over Maharashtra after people went back home from the event and related the violence that had happened.
The Dalit leader, who leads the Maharashtra-based Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, apologised to people of Mumbai inconvenienced by Wednesday's bandh that he said was "a 100 per cent success," but underlined that BR Ambedkar, his grandfather and architect of the Constitution, would have "one of the most happiest persons that the neglected mass has started asserting himself and that is creating ripples".
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a judicial inquiry into Monday's violence.