New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi lashed out at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), blaming them for the Bhima-Koregaon violence in Maharashtra.
Rahul alleged that the protests were a result of the "fascist vision" that encouraged the RSS and BJP to keep Dalits "at the bottom of Indian society."
"Una, Rohith Vemula and now Bhima-Koregaon are potent symbols of the resistance," he added, referring to other incidents of violence against Dalits over the past year in Madhya Pradesh's Una and Hyderabad Central University.
BJP spokesperson, GVL Narsimha Rao countered Rahul's allegations, saying it was part of the Congress' "incitement model."
Rao apprehended Rahul, saying that since his appeasement strategy had failed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he was trying to incite caste violence for "cynical political gains" in the 2019 polls.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, questioning, "who instigated and interfered in this event?"
BJP leader and Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ananth Kumar, reiterated saying, "Aag ko bujhaane ke bajaaye, bhadkaane ka kaam Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi aur Congress party kar rahi hai. Ise desh bardasht nahin karega. (Instead of preventing the fire from spreading, Congress Party and its leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi, are inciting it more. The nation will not tolerate this).
Opposition Dalit-community leader Mayawati, also blamed the upsurge on the caste-politics of the BJP. "Maharashtra has a BJP government and they are responsible for the violence. It seems the RSS, BJP and other casteist powers are behind it," she said.
Left front leader Sitaram Yechury tweeted, "The ideology of the RSS-BJP has always believed in suppressing those historically oppressed. This latest episode in Maharashtra, along with several others in the recent past just reinforces this."
Clashes between Dalit and Maratha groups broke out on Monday during an event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune district, during which a man was killed and several others were injured.
Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory on January 1, as it is believed that soldiers from the Mahar community -- then considered untouchable -- were part of the East India Company's forces.
However, some right-wing groups in Pune had expressed opposition to the celebration of 'British' victory.