Newly elected Vadgam MLA, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, will attend the event to commemorate the victory of 200 years of Battle of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra. Mevani has been invited to speak at the two-day conference on December 31st to January 1, 2018. Mevani rose to prominence after leading the agitation against the flogging of dalits in Una in July 2016.
What is Battle of Koregaon?
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 Peshwa dispatched around 2,000 soldiers to attack the Company force stationed in Koregaon.
Led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops defended their position for nearly 12 hours. The Marathas ultimately withdrew, fearing the arrival of a larger British force led by General Joseph Smith. 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.
The 'Mahars' were considered untouchable in the contemporary caste-based society. They see the Koregaon battle as a symbol of their victory over the high-caste oppression. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar visited the site on 1 January 1927. To commemorate his visit to the site, now thousands of his followers visit the site every New Year's Day.