Mumbai: Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of BR Ambedkar -- Dalit icon and the architect of India's constitution -- has called for a strike in Maharashtra today as the protests that started in Pune on Monday spilled over to Mumbai on Tuesday. The 63-year-old activist and leader of a regional party said 250 Dalit groups are supporting the bandh call.
Mr Ambedkar has accused three leaders of local right-wing groups of instigating Monday's violence in which a man had died. "I am blaming three persons as I had said earlier also. One is Sambaji Bhide, second is Milind Ekgote and third is Mr Ghughesh... I don't know his first name," he told reporters.
Welcoming the judicial inquiry into the violence announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, he said the judge conducting it should not be a Dalit. But there was a rider -- the judge, he said, should be empowered to "award punishment".
Mr Ambedkar is the leader of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, a Maharashtra-based party formed in 1999 following a split in the Republican Party of India, which claims to fight for the rights of the backward communities.
The Chief Minister's announcement came as Dalits hit the street in parts of Mumbai this morning, protesting against the violence ahead of a Dalit rally near Pune to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Anglo-Maratha war in which a small force of East India Company that comprised a large number of people who were then considered untouchables, had won the war against the army of Peshwa Bajirao II. During the violence, a man died, 12 people were injured and 40 vehicles were vandalized.
As rail and road traffic was blocked following the protests and the police in riot gear hit the streets of Mumbai, Mr Fadnavis said a sitting judge of the Bombay High Court will look into the violence in Pune. The death of the man will be investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department of the state police and his family will receive an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh, he said.
The Nationalist Congress Party has blamed the Maharashtra administration for lapses that led to the violence.
"Why did the administration not take adequate precautions for this event which has been celebrated peacefully for 200 years? Due to its lapses, there was confusion and rumour-mongering, resulting in the violence," NCP chief Sharad Pawar was quoted as saying by the news agency IANS.