Pune: Dalits heading to Bhima Koregaon memorial attacked, Athawale seeks govt protection
The event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune district, in which the British Army comprising Dalits had defeated upper-caste Peshwas, was marred by incidents of stone pelting and vandalism on Monday.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale has asked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to intervene, set up an inquiry and ensure that the Dalits had police protection for the event.
"The incident occurred in Bhima Koregaon in the afternoon when people were heading towards a war memorial in the village", police said.
The violence erupted after a group and some members of the crowd on its way to visit the memorial had an argument over some issue.
"Stone pelting started after the argument. During the violence, vehicles and a house in the vicinity were damaged," a police officer deployed for bandobast at Bhima Koregaon said without elaborating.
He said the police blocked the vehicular traffic on Pune-Ahmednagar highway for some time following the incident.
"More police personnel, including companies of the SRPF, have been deployed to avoid any untoward incident," the officer said.
Newly elected Vadgam MLA, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, attended the event on Sunday to commemorate the victory of 200 years of Battle of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra.
JNU student leader Umar Khalid, late Dalit research scholar Rohit Vemulas mother Radhika, Bhim Army president Vinay Ratan Singh and Prakash Ambedkar, former MP and grandson of Dr B R Ambedkar were present at the event.
The Battle of Koregaon was fought on 1 January 1818 between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy, at Koregaon Bhima. The 28,000-strong Marathas, led by Peshwa Baji Rao II intended to attack Pune.
On their way, they were met by an 800-strong Company force that was on its way to reinforce the British troops in Pune. The Company troops included predominantly Mahar Dalit soldiers belonging to the Bombay Native Infantry, and therefore the Dalit activists regard the battle as a heroic episode in Dalit history.
Ahead of an event on '200 years of Bhima Koregaon battle' section 144 has been imposed around Koregaon Bhima park in Pune.