Pune: The violent clashes in Bhima-Koregaon on New Year’s Day which left one person dead was not a riot, but a pre-planned attack, according to a report by the coordination committee to assist the police investigations.“Based on inputs from locals, we have gathered enough evidence to prove that the clashes were the culmination of a series of provocative acts orchestrated by Milind Ekbote and the followers of Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’,” RPI (A) leader Dr. Siddharth Dhende, Pune’s Deputy Mayor and a member of the committee, told The Hindu.According to another committee member, the board erected near the tomb of Govind Ganapat Gaikwad, a Dalit from the Mahar communit, who is said to have performed the final rites of the slain Maratha King Sambhaji (Shivaji’s son), was pulled down by Hindutva activists on Ekbote’s instigation three years ago as a precursor to the events of December 29 last year. “Ekbote used to visit Sambhaji’s tomb at Vadhu-Budruk village (4 km from Koregaon-Bhima) and had even floated a ‘committee’ dedicated to its preservation. However, his real purpose during the course of his visits appears to foment caste tensions,” said the member, requesting anonymity.The report further points to inflammatory messages circulating on social media which strongly hint at a conspiracy.On December 15, a provocative message posted by a person allegedly belonging to a Hindutva outfit and doing the rounds on Facebook spoke of “mourning for” Dalits gathering to celebrate the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle on January 1.The report refers to social media posts which went viral on December 30 and 31 asking activists to assemble at Vadhu-Budruk. Others spoke of a rally to be addressed by Ekbote and Bhide Guruji.The report further observes (based on inputs from locals and the regional press) that Ekbote was slated to hold a press meet on December 30 at Hotel Sonai in Perne Phata on the Pune-Nagar Road. The meet was apparently called off.“The people we spoke to mention that he held a conference somewhere else. We demand that the police pursue these leads with due diligence,” said Dr. Dhende.He further said that local shopkeepers in Vadhu and surrounding villages said that they were forced to down shutters on December 31 itself.“The next day, the villages adjoining Bhima-Koregaon practiced a veritable social boycott on the Bhim Sainiks and Dalits come to do homage to the Ranstambh (Victory Pillar). The visitors were not given food or water,” said Dr. Dhende.A mob of 1,500-2000 strong comprising of Hindutva activists believed to be the followers of Ekbote and Bhide Guruji was believed to have gathered on January 1 near Bhima-Koregaon at around 9: 30 a.m. with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc and disturbing the peace of the occasion, alleges the report. “The mob split into three groups and began furiously pelting stones, smashing shop windows, damaging vehicles in which the Dalits arrived, not even sparing police vehicles,” said a committee member.The report censures tardy police action which might have precluded the violence.The committee, comprising leaders from major Dalit outfits, was set up under the aegis of Vishwas Nangare-Patil, Inspector-General of Police (Kolhapur Range) on January 9. The octogenarian Bhide ‘Guruji’, a fervent admirer of the Maratha warrior King Shivaji who founded the Shiv Pratishthan, has a formidable following in the Western Maharashtra sugar-belt districts of Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur.Among his biggest followers include Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, both of whom regard Bhide Guruji as an exemplar of simple living and an inspirational teacher.The complaint against Bhide, Ekbote and their supporters in Pimpri was lodged by Anita Ravindra Salve, a member of the Bahujan Republican Socialist Party. Another criminal case was lodged against the duo in Auranagabad. Both cases have been transferred to the Shikrapur police in Pune district.The 85-year-old Hindutva leader has in turn accused Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) chief Prakash Ambedkar for wrongly blaming him for the Koregaon Bhima ‘conspiracy’. Rahul Phatangale, a 28-year-old youth, lost his life in the crossfire while he was out to buy vegetables at the time the violence erupted. Around 50 vehicles were burnt in the melee which raged for several hours.
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Pre-selection for the Overseas Employment Programme, administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, will be held between June 26 and July 17.This programme provides opportunities for hundreds of Jamaicans on Canadian and American farms yearly.Recruitment for the programme is done based on the needs of employers.The last recruitment was done in 2015 and resulted in a pool of approximately 3,000 persons from which to select.To ensure successful placement in the programme, persons must satisfy a number of requirements. Candidates must:• Be between 21 and 45 years old• Possess a Tax Registration Number (TRN) and a National Insurance Scheme (NIS) number• Possess a valid passport• Be literate• Have not been refused a visa in the last year by the Canadian or United States of America authorities• Not have been previously deported from any country• Possess no criminal recordApplication forms are available through several avenues, including Members of Parliament, mayors and councillors, the Ministry’s parish offices, civic organisations, trade unions and agricultural schools.After the forms have been completed and submitted to the Ministry, they are processed and then interviews are scheduled islandwide.Normally, four locations are visited across the country – 110-114 East Street in Kingston; Mandeville, Manchester; Montego Bay, St. James and St. Ann.Director of Manpower Services in the Ministry, Andrea Miller Stennett, explains to JIS News that after the interview stage, candidates are put in a pool for placement.“They are then required to submit a police record before they do a medical examination. If the candidates are found to be in good health, they are placed with an employer and then we call them to do biometric tests,” she outlines.They then fulfil the visa requirements for Canada or the United States, after which travel arrangements are made.Mrs. Miller-Stennett, however, cautions candidates that even if they have met the requirements outlined by the Ministry, there is no guarantee that they will be employed.“The Ministry cannot guarantee placement on any farm overseas, even if the candidates are successful with our processes, because there is a visa process that they have to go through where the Canadian and US authorities make a determination as to whether or not they are admissible,” she says.Approximately 375 farmworkers left the island for Canada in January. Last year, 15,611 workers participated in the Overseas Employment Programme. Of this figure, 8,934, or more than 50 per cent, went to Canada. This represented an increase of 844 new workers when compared with the same period in 2015.More information on the Overseas Employment Programme can be found on the Ministry’s website: www.mlss.gov.jm or by calling 922-9500-14. Story Highlights To ensure successful placement in the programme, persons must satisfy a number of requirements. Recruitment for the Overseas Employment Programme, administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, will be held between June 26 and July 17. Approximately 375 farmworkers left the island for Canada in January. Last year, 15,611 workers participated in the Overseas Employment Programme. Of this figure, 8,934, or more than 50 per cent, went to Canada. This represented an increase of 844 new workers when compared with the same p