Pune: Vishnu Phatangade was one of the several thousand police personnel on duty at Bhima Koregaon to ensure that peace prevailed while a sea of people flocked Tuesday to the Jay Stambh victory memorial there to commemorate the 1818 battle between East Indian Company forces and the Peshwa Army of the Maratha Empire.
What made him stand apart was the fact that exactly a year ago, violence at the very same spot during the same annual ritual, a proud facet of the Dalit narrative of valour, led to the death of his brother Rahul. Standing a few metres away from the spot where his brother fell to a brutal assault with sticks and stones, Phatangade said the call of duty was greater than the thought of taking the day off to mourn a beloved sibling.
The 25-year-old policeman is attached to the Pune Rural police’s Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad and is one of the 5,000 police personnel, 1,200 Home Guard jawans and 12 companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) who are on duty at the spot.
Though it is my brother’s first death anniversary, I thought it is my duty to be present here to ensure safety and security of the people”, he told PTI after this correspondent spotted him near the BDDS van. “Had I applied for leave, I would have easily got a day off. However, I decided to be on duty today and observe the first death anniversary of my brother later,” he said, a cop’s unflinching resolve coming through in his words.
The hurt is deeper, he agrees, as it was Rahul, elder to him by five years, who not only encouraged him to become a
policeman but also accompanied him through the recruitment procedures. The policeman added that he was also preparing to appear for the Maharashtra Public Service Commission exams even as he plays sole breadwinner for the family now comprising his wife and mother besides himself.
Rahul Phatangade (30), a resident of Sainath Nagar near Sanaswadi in Shirur tehsil here, was attacked and killed
by a mob armed with stones and sticks near Bhima Koregaon on January 1 last year.