Around 10 lakh people visited Bhima Koregaon on Tuesday, 1 January, to mark the 201st anniversary of the 1818 battle between British and Peshwas.
In the Dalit narrative, the 1818 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.
Last year on 1 January, celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle was closely followed by severe caste clashes, resulting in a shutdown in Maharashtra on 3 January 2018.
In an attempt to avoid a repetition of such an event, police and administration have put up elaborate arrangements this year.
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201st Anniversary of Bhima Koregaon Battle Amid Tight Security
People, mostly Dalits, had started to congregate at the ‘Vijay Stambh’ since Monday night, news agency ANI reported. The Vijay Stambh is a memorial in Bhima Koregaon, erected by the British, which Dalits regard it as their symbolic victory over the higher castes.
Soldiers of the Mahar community had fought for the British army against the Peshwas, 201 years ago.
Following a recent plea by the government, Bombay High Court gave control of the Bhima Koregaon area to the state government for ensuring security during the 201st anniversary celebrations.
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.
Police check posts have been set up along the border of Pune district.
"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.
Internet Shut Down, Activists Detained Ahead of 201st Anniversary.
Internet services will remain shut on Tuesday, 1 January, in Bhima Koregaon, reported The Indian Express. Police also banned the entry of Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote and activists associated with Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) into areas under its jurisdiction from 30 December to 1 January.
Mumbai Police last week detained Bhim Army President Chandrashekhar Azad, seven other leaders and around 350 activists, as part of preemptive measures, News-18 reported.
Pune Bishop Appeals For Peace And Harmony
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, news agency PTI reported.
Govt Targeted People Through Police Probe: Prakash Ambedkar
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar has said that through police probes, government targeted people behind Elgar Parishad, which he claims was “an attempt to bridge the rift between various communities”.
While Ambedkar is not scheduled to take any rally in the area, at least five Dalit organisations have been granted permission to hold their rallies in and around Perne and Koregaon Bhima, reported Indian Express.
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.
Ambedkar 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.
Commemoration Peaceful as 8-10 lakh People Paid Tribute
A year after caste clashes marred the event to celebrate the anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle, eight to 10 lakh people paid tributes amidst a heavy police presence at the memorial here, which has come to be known as a symbol of Dalit pride.
A senior police official said "scrupulous planning" and "cooperation from the locals" ensured that the day passed off peacefully, news agency PTI reported.