202nd anniversary of battle: Lakhs pay tribute at Bhima-Koregaon war memorial

Pune: Two years after the Bhima-Koregoan incident, lakhs of people assembled in Pune to mark the 202nd Victory Day on Wednesday peacefully under heavy police bandobast.  

On January 1, 2018, violence had erupted at the venue, leaving one person dead and several others, including 10 policemen, injured.

The police had filed 58 cases against 162 people during a statewide shutdown in January following the clashes in Bhima-Koregaon. The police alleged that Elgaar Parishad which was organised at Pune’s Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2017, had aggravated the violence.

And this year to mark the 202nd Valour Day anniversary the district administration and police along with local citizens prepared for four months not only in teaming up the security but also has installed streetlights at Rs70 lakh in the area.

Dalits community observes Bhima-Koregaon battle anniversary on January 1 as Valour Day. The members gather in large numbers to pay tributes at the Vijay Stambha raised by the British for the soldiers killed in the battle against the Peshwas.

The memorial located in Pune’s Perne village on Pune-Ahmednagar road, was constructed by the British in the memory of the soldiers of Mahar community who martyred in the battle against the Peshwas.

To mark the 200th anniversary, the Elgaar Parishad was organised at Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2017, which was the bastion area of Peshwa.

With folk songs in Marathi, Hindi, Kannada and Telugu, the area had turned into a pilgrimage. At every entry and exit there were CCTV cameras and drone surveillance. The cops were given pocket cameras to wear on chests and helmets. Road traffic was diverted. The internet services were suspended in five to six villages the entire day.

On the wee hours of Wednesday, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babashaheb Ambedkar and Member of Parliament Ramdas Athawale visited the memorial and paid tributes at the victory pillar.

Pune SP (rural) Sandeep Patil said, “To maintain law and order, and to check hate-mongering, we had suspended internet services. Over eight lakh people visited the place to pay tributes.”

Talking to the media, Ajit Pawar said, “This place has the historic importance. Administration and police have taken preventive steps for the smooth functioning. Maharashtra is soil which has historical and cultural significance.”

About New Year resolution, Pawar replied, “Development of Maharashtra state is a top priority. Our first priority is farmer-related issues and curbing suicides. We are in the process of distributing compensation. Unemployment and recession are key issues. We will also focus on women security.”

Some volunteers and social workers organised free medical camp and blood donation camp, volunteers cleaned the area, breakfast and lunch arrangements were made. At every 500 metres, the administration had arranged for water and sanitation facility.

Venkatesh Hunasahalli, a social worker from Bengaluru who had travelled with 30 family members and friends, said, “On the new year day, we take inspiration from this place. For the last two decades, we have been coming yearly here to pay tributes.”

Bhima-Koregoan Vijay Stambha Seva Sangh founding president Sarjerao Waghmare said, “We welcome the way the administration is taking effective steps for our village. Last year, in our area local residences and business-persons had kept their shops shut fearing violence. The police and administration have regularly held meetings, camping in our village, as well as all the villagers, have agreed to keep their shops open.”

Rupesh Thombare, the Perne village sarpanch, said, “After a long time, our demand of streetlight has come to reality. Usually, people switch-off the power in the village completely between 6 am to 6 pm to avoid mischievous attempt of anti-social elements.

We had repeatedly written for it but unfortunately, the administration woke up from its slumber after the clashes. We are happy we got our New Year gift.”

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