Pune: Day after, ground zero of violence simmers

More than five lakh people, mainly from the Dalit community, had assembled in Pune this year to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle, in which British forces had defeated an army of Peshwas on January 1, 1818.

Written by Chandan Shantaram Haygunde | Pune | Updated: January 3, 2018 11:05 am
Pune: Day after, ground zero of violence simmers Local residents staged a rasta roko at around 11.30 am Tuesday, blocking the Pune-Ahmednagar Highway for an hour. (Express Photo by Arul Horizon)

The situation remained tense in areas located between Lonikand and Shikrapur on the Pune-Ahmednagar Highway on Tuesday, following clashes between Maratha and Dalit communities following clashes between Maratha and Dalit communities in areas around Bhima Koregaon near Pune, in which a 30-year-old man was killed on Monday. The incident had taken place during celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.

Markets in the area remained shut and police issued prohibitory orders against people assembling. Local residents, most of them from the Maratha community, defied the order to stage a rasta roko on the Pune Ahmednagar Highway for about an hour at 11.30 am. The protesters demanded that no false case of atrocity should be lodged against any resident and the government should provide adequate compensation to those who have suffered losses in the violence. They dispersed only after Inspector General of Police, Vishwas Nangare Patil, promised stern action against the ‘rioters’.

Sporadic incidents of violence were also reported from areas near Bhima Koregaon, where some iron sheds were set on fire by a mob. Police teams and the fire brigade rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control. On Monday, when a large number of people had gathered at the ‘Jaystambh’ (victory memorial) in Perne village to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, clashes had broken out between Marathas and Dalits in the adjoining villages. A 30-year-old man, Rahul Babaji Phatangade, had died in clashes at Sanaswadi on Monday evening. Protesters had set over 100 vehicles on fire and 10 policemen were also injured in the violence.

More than five lakh people, mainly from the Dalit community, had assembled in Pune this year to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle, in which British forces had defeated an army of Peshwas on January 1, 1818. In Dalit narrative, the battle represents the victory of the Mahar community, which constituted a majority of British forces that day, over Peshwas, who were upper-caste Brahmins. Though authorities are still trying to ascertain what triggered the violence on Monday, police suspect that an incident in the neighbouring village of Vadhu Budruk, which took place last week, may have had something to do with it.

On December 29, a board had been erected near a structure, believed to be the tomb of Govind Gopal Mahar, in the village, located about 5 km from Bhima Koregaon. The board claimed that Mahar had defied the orders of Mughal king Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj after he was killed by Aurangzeb in 1689. Local Marathas, however, believe that it was their ancestors who had performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj. The Marathas, along with Gram Panchayat members, objected to the board, saying it mentioned “false history that had no documented evidence”. The incident had led to an argument between the two communities, said police. On the same day, an offence was registered by Dalit activists against 49 persons of Vadhu Budruk village under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, for allegedly damaging the board and an umbrella on Govind Gopal Mahar’s tomb, said police. Members of the Maratha community also filed a cross-complaint in the matter. However, after the intervention of police and local leaders, the two parties agreed to withdraw their complaints and settle the case.

Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar visited Vadhu Budruk on Tuesday. He interacted with both parties and appealed to them to maintain peace. The Dalits demanded that the government reconstruct the umbrella demolished during the December 29 incident, and the residents assured Kesarkar that they would settle the issue at the local level through discussions. Kesarkar also visited the violence-hit areas in Koregaon Bhima and Sanaswadi, and reviewed the law and order situation.

So far, six offences pertaining to the clashes have been lodged at the Shikrapur police station and more offences have been lodged at other police stations. These include a case on the murder of Rahul Phatangade and a case of attempt to murder policemen at Koregaon Bhima.

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  1. k s b
    Jan 3, 2018 at 4:17 pm
    This not a single day response, it politically motivate hence it has spread.
    1. Neem Neem
      Jan 3, 2018 at 9:22 am
      This is a branch story of Indian political history against one man.It is against anti Modi agitation/riot. There is no need to tell which political parties and leaders are behind it. It seems there is a great compe ion going on between Communists and these so called national secular party as to which party will hold Dalit and Minority vote banks in its fold making full use of anti Hindu plank in the name of RSS/BJP. The days of 1940s are different from 2017. It is high time forward castes in the country should come out of the political parties supporting the agitation to get rid of this agitation in the national interest leaving behind all their ideologies for the time being. The onus lies on the Hindus in secular parties and Communist parties to keep the iden y and safety / security if this great country is the need of the hour.
      1. Krishna Murthy
        Jan 3, 2018 at 7:31 am
        Is caste pride more important than National pride? What way one could justify the celebration of British victory over patriotic Marathas now, that too for an event that took place 209 years back? Shame. As long as caste leaders find a space in political arena these type of disturbances only will grow at the cost of country's image. It seems right time has come to tame the so called Caste Leaders in the interest of the nation.
        1. Prasanth Valsan
          Jan 3, 2018 at 7:56 am
          The same patriotic Marathas sided with the East Indian company and the Nizam to defeat Tipu Sultan. Is that also patriotic? Or is that fake history as well?
          1. Misinformation Destroyer
            Jan 3, 2018 at 11:26 pm
            both are foreigners spreading foreign culture, better to havve free women then black(burkha) and white army of women and men
        2. k s b
          Jan 3, 2018 at 7:20 am
          Why so much hurry to get any status? In last 60 years of independence this is a bad example to grow. Grow with india and be indian. Don't waste precious life on cities road or footpath, we need people to fight at borders, industries and other working places. STOP SUCH POLITICS.
          1. Prasanth Valsan
            Jan 3, 2018 at 7:57 am
            Rather, let those people who want to fight over history fight and die. Then the rest can live peacefully.
            1. k s b
              Jan 4, 2018 at 11:24 am
              Why would u not like to save ur people and let them work for country instead of fighting on streets. You are indirectly support those who are dividing us. Our strength lies in unity.