Pawar likens Lakhimpur incident to Jallianwala Bagh massacre
NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) Chief Sharad Pawar attacked the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) that is in power both at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh where the Lakhimpur violence took place.
“The manner in which the farmers were attacked revealed the true face of the Central Government. I strongly condemn this incident…The farmers have every right to protest, and they were agitating peacefully in Lakhimpur Kheri. Do not abuse power in this manner just because you [BJP] hold it in your hands at this moment,” Pawar said.
Drawing similarity with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Pawar said “The Uttar Pradesh Government has created a situation similar to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and it will have to pay its price one day…this Government cannot succeed by strangling voices of the farmers. You [BJP Governments in U.P. and the Centre] will get a fitting response not only from the farmers in Uttar Pradesh but from all over the country”.
1994 Gowari massacre
It is quite appalling that while talking of the Lakhimpur incident, the mob lynching of 4 innocent Hindus by the so-called farmer is being totally overlooked and even justified but Sharad Pawar talking about the “right to protest” is a bit rich considering the fact that it was his government that oversaw the Gowari massacre.
On November 23, 1994, Sudhakar Gajbe led 40000 members of the vanvasi Gowari samaj to protest at Nagpur’s Maharashtra Legislature demanding granting of tribal status to the community which would help them claim reservation benefits meant for STs.
However, all they got was police lathicharge leading to panic among the protestors leaving 114 dead and close to 500 others injured. Not even women and children were spared as 71 women and 23 children lost their lives in the tragic incident. What’s worse is that Gowari community leader Gajbe, who lost three family members in the incident, was arrested on charges of rioting.
India Today quotes Gajbe as saying, “What you saw was the daylight murder of poor tribals. The Government even withdrew the one-rupee allowance paid to our children for attending school, the scholarships for higher studies, and the 50 percent subsidy for cattle purchase. Most Gowaris don’t earn more than Rs 2 a day. The Government resolution finished us”.
Gajbe was referring to the April 1985 resolution passed by the Maharashtra state assembly declaring the Gowaris as neither Gond-Gowaris nor a distinct tribe thereby making them ineligible to claim benefits as Gond-Gowaris.
Explaining the Gowari issue, the India Today report said:
Ironically, the resolution of the Gowari problem lies with both the state and the Centre. The Gowaris are basically cattle-grazers who number about three lakh in Maharashtra. They were first officially recognised 125 years ago. But they were not included in the STs’ list drawn up in Delhi in 1950, though the Gond-Gowaris, a sub-caste of the totally different Gond tribe, were.
However, due to a similarity in the nomenclature, the Gowaris managed to claim benefits as Gond-Gowaris till the Maharashtra Assembly passed a resolution in April 1985 saying that they were neither Gond-Gowaris nor a distinct tribe.
They can now reclaim the benefits only if Parliament includes them in the STs’ list or the state Assembly rescinds its 1985 resolution. However, to complicate matters, the Centre wrote to the state Government in August 1988 maintaining that the Gowaris, “an advanced farming community”, could not be certified as tribals…
…When they took out a morcha in Nagpur, where the Assembly meets every winter, the Sanghatan leaders wanted Pawar or Pichad to see the Gowaris in all their strength. Said a senior member, Keshavrao Raut: “We wanted to tell the Government, ‘Here we are, different from Gond-Gowaris’.”
Pichad, however, refused to leave the Assembly, saying he would meet a delegation. While Gajbe wanted a 25-mem-ber team, the police, worried about security, demanded the number be restricted to five. This stalemate eventually ended with tragic consequences.
For the restive Gowaris led by inexperienced leaders, all it took to create panic was a few lathis and gunshots…
…Ramesh Gajbhiye remembers seeing the police “pick up dead and even half-dead people and throw them in waiting buses and trucks”.
This tragedy could easily have been averted had met the protestors instead of strangling their voices. The words of opposition leader Gopinath Munde who claimed the one-man inquiry commission of Justice SS Dani was merely a way of burying the matter tuned prophetic when the commission appointed by Pawar exonerated him and his three cabinet colleagues of all responsibility for the tragedy.
More than two and half decades after the tragedy, the Gowari community still awaits justice since the Bombay (Mumbai) High Court’s Nagpur bench order of 2018 granting reservation benefits was set aside by the Supreme Court in 2020.
All the Gowaris wanted was a better life but they were left with nothing but the tragic death of their loved ones and memorial dedicated to those innocents who plea fell on a deaf government led by Sharad Pawar.
Pawar should probably peek into his conscience the next time he feels the urge to take the moral high ground.
(Featured Image: Dainik Jagran)