Pune gears up for anniversary of Koregaon Bhima battle

Altercation between two groups during the celebrations— organized by Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan— to mark the bicentenary of the Anglo-Maratha war at Bhima Koregaon in Shirur taluk, Pune. PTI File Photo

In what appears to be a massive show of strength, several Scheduled Caste organisations would converge at Koregaon Bhima in Shirur tehsil of Pune district on January 1, 2019, to commemorate the 201st anniversary of the Anglo-Maratha war.

In this war, the Mahar caste soldiers of Bombay Native Infantry of East India Company defeated the Peshwas.

Every year thousands of Scheduled Castes gather at the Jay Stambha (victory pillar) to commemorate the victory of British forces over the Peshwa army in 1818.

The memorial is on the Perne village along the Pune-Ahmednagar road.

Several prominent Scheduled Caste organisations have come together under the banner of the 'Bhima Koregaon Vijay Stambh Shaurya Din Samanway Samiti' to organise and commemorate the event.

It may be recalled that on January 1, 2018, the anniversary celebrations sparked off caste violence leading to the death of one youth and thereafter followed violence and arson in various towns of Maharashtra.

"We have requested the government to provide necessary facilities," said Rahul Dambale, president of Bhartiya Republican Yuva Morcha which is one of the organisers.

Pune district's guardian minister Girish Bapat has held a series of meetings to review the situation.

"We are ensuring that there is enough security and proper arrangements," he said.

Chief Secretary D K Jain, too, took couple of review meetings.

Over the last couple of months, Pune Collector Naval Kishore Ram and Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) Sandip Patil visited Bhima Koregaon, Vadu Budruk, Perne, Sanaswadi, Lonikand and Shikrapur villages in the district.

The Pune district administration is drawing up security arrangements on the scale like that of the Kumbh-mela in Nashik-Trimbakeshwar or the Ashadi-Ekadashi in Pandharpur, Solapur.

"There would be heavy police deployment, besides regular police there would be companies of State Reserve Police Force, Home Guards and so on," police officials said.

Social media platforms are also being monitored by police teams.

CCTV cameras have also been mounted at several places along the memorial.

Drones would also be used to maintain security.

The January 1, 2018 violence sparked off a major political controversy.

The government had found that the December 31, 2017 Elgar Parishad meeting at Shaniwarwada in Pune triggered off the violence and had blamed the CPI (Maoists) for fomenting casteist trouble across India.

Elgar Parishad and Koregaon Bhima: the story so far

December 29, 2017: The samadhi of Govind Gopal Mahar (Gaikwad) at Vadhu Budruk, a village nearly 3 km away from Koregaon Bhima, was vandalized. Govind, a Scheduled Caste, had conducted the last rites of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s eldest son Sambaji, who was killed at the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1689.

The Mughals had warned that they would kill anyone who perform the last rites, but, Gaikwad defied the order. He was killed, but Gaikwad emerged as a symbol of Scheduled Caste pride and courage for centuries. This piece of history, however, had been challenged.

December 31, 2017: At an event of Elgar Parishad held at Shaniwardwada in Pune city to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Koregaon-Bhima battle, several people including Jignesh Mewani, Radhika Vemula, Umar Khalid, Vinay Ratan Singh, Soni Sori and Prashant Dontha spoke at the event.

January 1, 2018: Altercation between two groups during the celebrations— organized by Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan— to mark the bicentenary of the Anglo-Maratha war at Bhima Koregaon in Shirur taluk, Pune.

In the battle, the Mahar caste soldiers of Bombay Native Infantry of East India Company defeated the Peshwas. One youth was killed in the incident. Several vehicles and public property was damaged. This was followed by two days of agitation.

January 4, 2018: Prakash Ambedkar demands arrest of Sangli-based Sambaji Bhide, the founder of  Shree Shiv Pratisthan Hindustan, and Pune-based Milind Ekbote, the founder of Samastha Hindu Aghadi.

January 8, 2018: Pune police registers FIR into the Elgar Parishad meeting, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani and students' leader Umar Khalid named in FIR

February 10, 2018: Maharashtra government appoints Justice (Retd) J N Patel, former chief justice of Kolkata High Court, and the then chief secretary Sumit Malik as a two-member probe panel to investigate the Koregaon Bhima riots and it gave them four months time to submit a report.

March 14, 2018: Pune rural police arrest Milind Ekbote after Supreme Court rejected his anticipatory bail application

March 28, 2018: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis gives clean chit to Sambhaji Bhide

April 17, 2018: Multi-city raids on Maoists sympathisers including Surendra Gadling and members of Kabir Kala Manch.

April 22-23, 2018: More than 40 Maoists including four commanders were killed in the twin encounters in Gadchiroli district by team of Anti-Naxalite Operations of Maharashtra Police and 9th Battalion of Central Reserve Police Force.

June 6, 2018: Pune Police arrests Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, and Mahesh Raut during the first round of raids.

June 7, 2018: Pune Police unearths a plot by Maoists to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi the way one of his predecessors Rajiv Gandhi was eliminated

August 8, 2018: Pune Police arrests revolutionary writer Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Pereira in the second round of raids.

Supreme Court sends them to house arrest. Subsequently, they were arrested one by one after the period of house arrest ended except for Navlakha.

November 15, 2018: Pune police files chargesheet, says there was a plot to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi, overthrow the elected government and foment caste trouble.

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Pune gears up for anniversary of Koregaon Bhima battle

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