Mumbai: The opposition led by the Congress and the NCP came down heavily on the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra on Thursday over the Bhima-Koregaon caste violence, calling it an act of "state-sponsored terrorism".
They also raised the issue of the demolition of a statue of Communist icon Vladimir Lenin in Tripura, where the BJP recently swept to power.
Raising a short duration debate in the Legislative Council on the Bhima-Koregaon riots, Sharad Ranpise (Congress) wanted to know why the government has appointed the chief secretary to the probe panel headed by a retired High Court judge.
He claimed this was done to influence the probe into the January clashes in Bhima-Koregaon village in Pune district and alleged the Fadnavis government is trying to divide communities.
"A political party with communal ideology was behind the oppression of the downtrodden castes. The pulling down of a Lenin's statue in Tripura was lauded by a secretary of that party," he said.
Ranpise urged the government not to create disharmony among different castes and refrain from practicing the British-era divide and rule policy.
"Why the police did nothing to stop a large mob of 500 to 700 people armed with stones when they were charging at the war memorial (near Bhima-Koregaon). This was because the riots were an act of state-sponsored terrorism," he said.
The Congress legislator said the incident was fallout of two-and-a-half thousand years of oppression of the downtrodden castes by the upper castes.
"Communal harmony is being disturbed by raking up issues like cow protection, love jihad, ghar wapsi," he said.
Referring to the commemoration of the 200 years of Bhima-Koregaon war of January 1, 1818 in which the British forces defeated the Peshwa army, he wanted to know as to why senior ministers visited the venue on December 31 when they knew the event was scheduled the next day.
Jaidev Gaikwad (NCP) alleged the work on disturbing communal harmony was going on for the last 10 to 15 years. He argued the trouble in Bhima-Koregaon was fomented by "outsiders".
Vijay Girkar (BJP), however, said heavy deployment of police personnel prevented escalation of violence.
Jogendra Kawade (Peoples Republican Party) alleged the riots were an organised attack on the Dalit community.
The violence had erupted 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.
Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory, as it is believed soldiers from the Mahar community – then considered untouchable – were part of the East India Company’s forces. The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of assertiveness by Dalits.