The 206th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle witnessed a convergence of thousands of Dalits, predominantly Ambedkarites, from across the nation to pay homage at the 'Jay Stambh' in Pune's Perne village on Monday.
Erected in 1821 by the British, the 'Jay Stambh' commemorates the historic battle that saw the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II by the British Army, mainly composed of Dalit Mahars.
During the battle on January 1, 1818, around 500 Dalit Mahar soldiers overcame the 28,000-strong force of upper-caste Peshwas. This event holds deep significance for Dalits, symbolising their fight against oppressive Peshwa casteism.
Political figures, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Sports and Youth Welfare Sanjay Bansode, visited the war memorial and inaugurated a book exhibition on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's 'The Problem of Rupee' there.
Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar also paid tributes at the 'Jay Stambh'. Taking to X (formerly Twitter), he posted a picture and wrote, "We are not foxes but lions! Never forget this, my people. 'They' have turned a blind eye to our strength but we all know what wonders we can do. Glory will be ours. Jai Bhim!" Ambedkar's son Sujat led a massive bike rally from Pune Station to Bhima Koregaon on the eve of the anniversary.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Sharad Pawar faction MP Amol Kolhe acknowledged the Bhima Koregaon battle as more than a military triumph, heralding it as a victory for the oppressed against systemic injustice. In a video shared on social media, the Shirur MP hailed the battle as a triumph of the people over established norms, emphasising its significance in the fight against oppression. He paid homage to the valiant heroes of history and pledged an unwavering commitment to persist in the struggle against injustice, drawing inspiration from their enduring spirit.
Pune Police Commissioner Retesh Kumaarr highlighted the comprehensive security measures undertaken for the Bhima Koregaon battle anniversary.
He said, "Elaborate security arrangements were made around the memorial. 5,000 police personnel, including State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) battalions, alongside bomb detection and disposal squads, were stationed at the 'Jay Stambh' and areas around Bhima Koregaon and Vadhu Budruk villages to uphold law and order throughout the event."
"For the last 15 days, district administration and police were making arrangements. We used CCTV cameras and drones to monitor the bandobast," he added.
Considering past violence in 2018, authorities issued warnings to activists and individuals involved in related cases to avoid the region during the event, emphasising precautionary measures.