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BJP ministers to share stage with Republican Party of India (A) at Jaystambh on December 31

Event commemorates Dalits who fought for the East India Company against the Maratha Empire

Written by Chandan Shantaram Haygunde | Pune | Updated: December 30, 2017 9:23 am
The Jaystambh at Perne.

BJP leaders will share the stage with the Republican Party of India (A) to pay tributes to the Jaystambh in Perne Village on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1.

The Republican Party of India, led by Union Minister for Social Justice Ramdas Athavale, is in alliance with the BJP at the Centre and in the state. Mahendra Kamble, chief of the RPI (A)’s Pune unit, said the party has planned a programme for two days — December 31 and January 1 — at the Jaystambh.

BJP’s Subhash Bhamre, who is the Minister of State for Defence, will be the key speaker at the programme on December 31, which will be presided over by Athavale.

Along with Bhamre, other BJP speakers who would be joining RPI (A)’s gathering on December 31 include Minister of Social Justice for Maharashtra Rajkumar Badole, District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat, MPs Anil Shirole and Amar Sabale. Senior RPI (A) leaders from the state including deputy mayor Siddharth Dhende will also be present at the event, stated a press release issued by RPI (A) on Friday.

While the account of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon is contested, the RPI (A) has maintained the Dalit narrative that the East India Company defeated the Peshwas on January 1, 1818, and the British force comprised largely of soldiers from the Dalit Mahar community, who waged a “war for freedom” from the alleged casteism of the Peshwas.

The RPI (A) release mentions that 500 Mahar soldiers in the Company army defeated a 28,000 strong Maratha force. The East India Company had erected a Jaystambh — Victory Pillar — at Perne Village near Bhima Koregaon in Pune, in memory of the Company sepoys who were killed in the battle.

Meanwhile, organisers of Elgaar Parishad, a conference to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle at Shaniwar Wada on December 31, have called the BJP, RSS and other Hindutva groups the ‘New Peshwas’.

They have called on people to take inspiration from the “martyrs” of the Bhima Koregaon battle in order to defeat the “New Peshwas”. A ‘concept note’ released by the Elgaar Parishad organisers did not name Athavale, but slammed “Ambdekarite leaders supporting the New Peshwas” as “treacherous”.

In response, Mahendra Kamble said, “Our association with the BJP is political in nature and is based on a common minimum programme. That does not mean we support everything that BJP does.”

Meanwhile, RPI (A) also slammed the BJP government in the state and at the Centre for not maintaining the Jaystambh properly. RPI (A) demanded that the government should declare the Jaystambh a “heritage” site.

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