The umbrella-like structure over the samadhi of Govind Gopal (Mahar) Gaikwad in Vadhu Budruk, which was damaged during a dispute between Maratha and Dalit communities on December 29 last year, was reinstalled on Thursday, in the presence of local residents from different communities, police and government officials.
The dispute in Vadhu Budruk is believed to have triggered the violent clashes that broke out in villages near Pune on January 1, during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, and led to the death of one person and injuries to hundreds of others.
The samadhi is located on private land, which belongs to Rajendra Gaikwad, a Dalit, who claims to be a descendent of Govind Gopal (Mahar) Gaikwad. While members of the Maratha community have claimed the samadhi was constructed at the spot only a couple of years ago, Dalits say it has existed for many years and was only renovated a few years ago.
“The structure, damaged by some anti-social elements… was reinstalled today…. the villagers later came together and settled the dispute, so there was no problem while erecting the structure today. Union Minister Ramdas Athawale has announced Rs 25 lakh for building a memorial for Govind (Mahar) Gaikwad at the spot. But it will take time as government procedures will have to be completed before that,” said Rajendra Gaikwad.
Police records show that a dispute regarding the history of Govind (Mahar) Gaikwad has been going on between Dalits and Marathas in the village for a few years. Maratha residents of the village believe it was their ancestors, the Shivale Deshmukhs, who performed the last rites on Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, after he was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1689. Vadhu Budruk also has a memorial of the Shivale Deshmukhs.
The dispute on December 29 was triggered by a board, with ‘disputed history’, that was erected at the site, allegedly by Dalits. It was removed later, allegedly by the Marathas.
Tehsildar Ranjit Bhosale said the structure has been reinstalled peacefully, adding, “No board will be displayed at the spot now. Further action will be taken as per decisions taken at the government level”.
On Tuesday, retired Justice C L Thool, chairman of the Maharashtra Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribes Commission, had visited Vadhu Budruk and appealed to the villagers to reinstall the umbrella-like structure over the tomb of Govind (Mahar) Gaikwad. In a meeting held on Wednesday, attended by police and administrative officials, local residents had agreed to reinstall the structure.
Marathas claim that as per historical documents, in 1733, nearly 44 years after death of Sambhaji Maharaj, his son Shahu Maharaj appointed three persons — Govind Gopal Dhagoji Megoji (Mahar), Bhikaram Gosavi and Dharmadhikari — to look after the samadhi of Sambhaji Maharaj in Vadhu Budruk. While some history books say Govind (Mahar) conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj, Marathas say no documented evidence is available to confirm this.
The Maratha community in the village has demanded that the government form a committee that includes historians, who can “confirm” the historical information about Govind (Mahar) Gaikwad. “We are ready to display facts based on evidence,” said former Vadhu Budruk sarpanch Prafull Shivale.