In a typical JNU style celebration of ‘alternative history’, newly elected Gujarat MLA cum Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and Kashmiri separatist cum JNU student Umar Khalid are all set to celebrate “victory” of British Imperialist forces of East India Company over an army led by Peshwa Baji Rao II of Maharashtra (then the Maratha empire).
This victory – Peshwa’s army stopped from entering Pune in 1818 – is being seen as ‘Dalit victory’ in the eyes of practitioner of alternative history, because the army of East India Company was supposed to be made of people belonging to Dalit and other lower castes while the ruling Peshwas were Brahmins.
For the practitioners of alternative history, it doesn’t matter that the British rule in India supported and strengthened zamindari system and institutionalized other oppressive socio-economic practices, which were hardly any good news for Dalits and lower castes. It also doesn’t matter that Peshwa’s army did not comprise only upper caste warriors.
This ‘Dalit victory’ is argued to have taken place on 1st January 1818, and both Mevani and Khalid have been invited to take part in the bicentennial celebrations later this month. The victory celebrations are reported to be an annual affair, but this year will see Islamic radicals and people having alleged links with Maoist organizations taking part in it, apart from Mevani and Khalid.
The attempt is being seen as furthering the Muslim-Dalit unity narrative ahead of the 2019 elections. The organizers have not tried to hide their political ambitions. Pamphlets have been reported as referring to BJP, Shiv Sena, RSS, etc. as “new Peshwas” and CBI, RAW, ATS (anti-terrorism squad) as “casteist” forces.
While one can debate such “alternative” readings of history and current affairs, it should be noted that the same liberal-secular “intelligentsia” doesn’t waste a single moment in mocking alleged Hindutva groups for not having fought against the British, while finding it entirely normal and justified to celebrate an imperialist victory that was crucial in helping establish British empire in India.
It will also be interesting to see how Janeudhari (Brahmin) Rahul Gandhi will respond to Jignesh Mevani, who won his assembly seat in Gujarat earlier this month due to Congress party’s support, taking part in celebrations that considers Brahmins as a bigger enemy block than foreigners.