Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader and B R Ambedkar's Grandson Prakash said the number of visitors is likely to swell this year. "The reason behind the surge is because the likes of retired SC judge P B Sawant, retired HC judge B G Kolse Patil and some students (Kabir Kala Manch) took the history of the Koregaon Bhima battle to rural Maharashtra," he said. Unfortunately, the same students who "bridged the gap between the Marathas and the OBCs using the Elgaar Parishad platform were labelled as Naxals by the government, he said. "These students took real history of Koregon Bhima to the masses, but the government labelled them Naxals," he said, adding the government should find real perpetrators of last year's violence and bring them to justice.
The British later erected a victory obelisk (memorial) and the Dalit castes regard it as their symbolic victory over the higher castes, which is celebrated annually on New Year Day, January 1 since the past 200 years.
Ambedkar's Grandson at Jay Stambh | Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar, was among the first politicians to offer his tribute at the Jay Stambh this morning. After laying a wreath at the memorial, Ambedkar hoped the commemoration event will pass off peacefully. "Unlike last year, local people of surrounding villages have extended all help during the commemoration. Locals are lending a helping hand. I hope peaceful completion. However, the police should not act in haste," he told reporters.
At least 5,000 police personnel, 1200 Home Guard jawans, 12 companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) and 2,000 Dalit volunteers are deployed in and around Perne village where people are paying tributes at the war memorial, police said. The 'jay stambh' was erected by the British as a memorial for soldiers killed in the Koregaon Bhima battle on January 1, 1818. Besides large-scale police deployment, 500 CCTV cameras, 11 drone cameras and 40 video cameras are monitoring the area, a senior police officer said this morning.
Thousands of people, mainly Dalits, Tuesday flocked the 'Jay Stambh' memorial in Maharashtra's Pune district to pay tributes on the 201st anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle amidst heavy police presence. One person was killed and several others were injured in caste clashes that broke out on January 1 last year on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1818 battle, which has attained legendary stature in Dalit history.
"People were scared to visit the victory pillar after what happened last year. We are trying to give a positive message to them by welcoming them with flowers," said Rupesh Thorat, Perne village head. Caste clashes had broken out around Koregaon Bhima village on January 1 last year, killing one person and injuring several others.
Perne Village residents welcome visitors with flowers and water at Jay Stambh on Koregaon Bhima's 201st anniversary. The 'jay stambh' had been erected by the British as a memorial for the soldiers killed in the Koregaon Bhima battle on January 1, 1818. In the Dalit narrative, the battle is the victory over casteism as the British army comprising a large contingent of dalit Mahar soldiers had defeated the forces of Peshwas — the Brahmin custodians of the Maratha kingdom.
Special IG, Vishwas Nangare Patil appealed people not to believe or spread rumours. Two months ago, several hate messages were making rounds on social media, following which the police took action against 45 people for spreading rumours, he said. Asked if Internet services will be suspended on January 1, he said it will depend on the situation. Police check posts have been set up along the border of Pune district, he said.
Bishop of Pune diocese, Thomas Dabre has appealed to churches and institutions in the west Maharashtra city to hold prayers for "peace and harmony" during the 201st anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle that falls on January 1. One person was killed and several others injured in the violence on January 1 which had broken out a day after the Elgaar Parishad conclave was held in historic Shaniwarwada in Pune. "As the Bishop of the Diocese of Ponna (Pune), I have issued a circular to around 60 churches and 20 institutions in the city to hold prayers for peace and harmony to be prevailed in Koregaon Bhima and in the Pune district during the 201st anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle," said Dabre.
Chandrashekhar Azad to Visit Jay Stambh Today | Dalit leader and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad Monday reiterated his plan to visit the victory pillar even if the government uses force to deter him. Azad could not hold a public rally in Pune, after the Bombay High Court Monday refused to pass any orders to the Pune Police to permit the Bhim Army to conduct public meetings in the city. Azad visited historic places such as Phule Wada, Lal Mahal and held meetings with members of his outfit in the day.
Koregaon Bhima Eve | Arrangements were also made for food, water and providing other logistical support. "Majority of the visitors, mainly youths, reached here today from the Vidarbha and the Marathawada regions of the state and paid tribute at the memorial," said a police officer. The 'jay stambh' had been erected by the British as a memorial for the soldiers killed in the Koregaon Bhima battle on January 1, 1818.
Koregaon Bhima 'Jay Stambh' | On the eve of the 201st anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle, thousands of visitors Monday paid tribute at the 'jay stambh' near Perne village in Maharashtra's Pune district amidst heavy security while locals accorded them a "warm" welcome and arranged for their food. Around 18,000 to 20,000 visitors who have come from various parts of Maharashtra visited the victory pillar, police said. Contrary to the scene of January 1 last year when caste clashes had broken out around Koregaon Bhima village, the villagers were Monday seen welcoming the visitors with roses and water bottles, they said.
Samasta Hindu Aghadi leader Milind Ekbote Barred | A senior police officer said that Ekbote and members of the KKM have been barred from visiting the area. Some members of the KKM are accused in the Elgar Parishad case. According to the police, provocative speeches at the Parishad (conclave), funded by Maoists, on December 31, 2017 triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day. Six persons have been "externed" from the district, the officials said. The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act has been invoked against a gang operating in the district. District collector Ram said that seven to ten lakh people are expected to visit the war memorial on January 1. The administration has held several meetings with local people and taken measures to create a "positive environment", he said.
Addressing a joint press conference here, Pune rural Superintendent of Police Sandip Patil said "preventive action" has been taken against 1,211 people under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). It includes action against 64 people who have been barred from visiting the surrounding area, he said. Some of these people are facing serious cases in connection with the January 1 violence and "such people will be kept away from the event" this time, said the SP. Special Inspector General of Police (Kolhapur range) Vishwas Nangare-Patil and Pune district collector Naval Kishore Ram also addressed the press conference. When asked if a notice has been served to another rightwing leader Sambhaji Bhide, who alongwith Ekbote is accused of instigating the violence of January 1, 2018, the police officials did not give any specific reply.
History of Bhima-Koregaon | Clashes had broken out on January 1, 2018 when Dalits visited Koregaon Bhima to commemorate 200th anniversary of the victory of the East India Company's forces — which included Dalit Mahar soldiers — over the Brahmin Peshwa's army.One person lost life in the violence. Dalits, who look upon the defeat of Peshwa's army as a symbol of their emancipation, visit the Jay Stambh (victory pillar) at the site on January 1 every year. Right-wing organisations had opposed the celebration of the British victory on its bicentennial anniversary last time.
Security Stepped Up Ahead of Bhima-Koregaon Anniversary | To avoid repeat of the violence witnessed near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial in Pune district on January 1, 2018 one year later, police have taken preventive action against over 1,200 people. The action includes barring some persons from entering the area and `externment' (eviction from the district) of some others, senior police officials said here Saturday. Those who have been prohibited from visiting Koregaon Bhima and the surrounding area, 40 km from here, include right-wing Hindu leader Milind Ekbote and members of the left-leaning cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM).
Last year, however, the celebrations, attended by around 3,00,000 people had turned violent, killing one and effecting a Maharashtra shutdown on January 3, leading to a major churning in caste and ideological politics. Later, police swooped in on human rights, rights and civil society activists all over India to check 'Urban Maoist' activities in the wake of a conference held in Pune on December 31, 2017, on the eve of the Bhima-Koregaon battle’s 200th anniversary.
In a series of pre-emptive measures, the Mumbai Police last week detained Bhim Army president Chandrashekhar Azad, seven other leaders and around 350 activists from Malad, Ghatkopar, Kandivali, Dadar, Worli and other areas. Azad, who was kept under detention in the suburban Hotel Manali since Friday, will visit the Jay Stambh' (Victory Pillar) at around 12.30pm. RPI chief and Union minister Ramdas Athawale will also address a public meeting at 1pm and meet the press at 4pm.
The state government has also barred Right-wing leaders like Sambhaji Bhide alias Guruji and Milind Ekbote, besides activists of the Left-leaning NGO, Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), which had organised the December 31, 2017 Elgaar Parishad in Pune, from Bhima-Koregaon from Sunday till Wednesday.
Following a recent plea by the government, the Bombay High Court has given control of the Bhima-Koregaon area to the state government for ensuring security during the 201st anniversary celebrations.
Accordingly, the police have deployed a massive force in and around the village, severe restrictions on movement of pedestrians or vehicular traffic, parking at 11 designated locations, multiple security check-posts, road barricades and a CCTV network in an eight km radius from the memorial complex.
"We are fully prepared to ensure peaceful and orderly celebrations at Koregaon-Bhima and ensure that no untoward incidents take place," Inspector-General of Police (Kolhapur Range) Vishwas Nangare-Patil told media persons on Saturday.
(With agency inputs)
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