Dalit organisations congregated at Koregaon village near Pune to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon. Vadgam MLa Jignesh Mewani, JNU student union leader Omar Khalid, Prakash Ambedkar grandson of Dr. BR Ambedkar and Radhika Vemula, mother of Dalit student Rohit Vemula attended the event.
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. This year the historical event marked 200th anniversary of the battle.