Violence near Bhima Koregaon: 1 killed

Vehicles damaged; links with case under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act suspected to have triggered unrest

Written by Sushant Kulkarni , Chandan Shantaram Haygunde | Pune | Updated: January 2, 2018 12:14 pm
koregaon bhima, maratha dalit clashes, pune district, battle of koregaon bhima, maharashtra news, indian express Several people were injured and vehicles set on fire. (Express Photo)

As lakhs of Dalits gathered in the city to attend an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, there were violent clashes between Dalit and Maratha groups, resulting in the death of at least one person and injuries to several others.

The main event at the Jay-stambh (victory memorial) at Bhima Koregaon was largely peaceful but clashes were reported from neighbouring villages. Police said an unrelated incident in the nearby village of Vadhu Budruk last week, in which a case had been registered against upper caste Marathas, could have triggered the clashes.

According to the police, more than five lakh people, mainly from the Dalit community, had assembled in Pune this year for the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle, in which British forces had defeated an army of Peshwas on January 1, 1818. Every year on January 1, thousands of Dalits march to the Jaystambh (victory memorial) at Bhima Koregaon, about 30 km northeast of Pune, to mark the occasion. There have been no records of any violent incident at these commemorations in the previous years. This year, however, tension had been prevailing in areas around Bhima Koregaon because of a different dispute.

On December 29, a board had been found erected near a structure believed to be the tomb of Govind Gopal Mahar in Vadhu Budruk village, about 5 km from Bhima Koregaon. The board said 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. Mahar is a Dalit community. Local Marathas, however, believe that it was their ancestors who had performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj.

The Marathas along with the gram panchayat authorities took an objection to the board, saying it was mentioning false history having no documented evidence. It led to a quarrel between the two communities, the police said. 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 damaging the board, police said. The gram panchayat of Vadhu Budruk also reportedly filed a cross complaint with the police in the matter.

However, at the intervention of police and local leaders, the two sides agreed to withdraw the complaints and settle the case. Jaysingh Bhandare, the Police Patil, issued appeals to villagers asking them to maintain peace, in view of the large number of people that were expected to turn up at Bhima Koregaon for the anniversary event. It was expected that at least some of the people visiting the ‘Jaystambh’ would visit the tomb of Govind Mahar in Vadhu Budruk as well.

Security forces had been deployed in Vadhu Budruk and other locations to deal with any unpleasant situation. But since Monday morning, a mob of a few hundred, comprising mainly of people from Maratha community, had gathered in Vadhu Budruk, the police said. It is suspected that most of them came following appeals on social media. Dalit groups were also coming in to the village.

A local villager said there were incidents of slogan shouting in the morning but no violence. By afternoon, however, clashes were reported from Koregaon Bhima and also in nearby villages of Sanaswadi, Shikrapur and some other places. About hundred vehicles were damaged and a few others, including a fire tender and a police vehicle, were set on fire. Huge police force was deployed at places where violence was reported.

Inspector General of Police Vishwas Nangare Patil and District Superintendent of Police Suvez Haque were handling the situation on the ground. On the orders of the district administration, mobile phone jammers had been activated to prevent the spread of rumours. One person, identified as Rahul Phatangale (28) of Sanaswadi, was reported killed in an attack by a mob. An offence of murder was lodged at Shikrapur police station. One among those injured was known to be critical.

The state Director General of Police, Satish Mathur confirmed the death but said an investigation was being conducted into the sequence of events leading to it. “The incidents of violence took place at multiple locations. Senior officers are monitoring the situation. One police vehicle has been burnt and the total number vehicles that have been damaged is yet to be confirmed. Tear gas and lathicharge was resorted to in order to control the situation some locations,” he said.

Events at the Jay-stambh area were largely peaceful but there was panic and unrest for sometime as smoke emerging from torched vehicles and tyres was visible.

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  1. Shafvan Beary
    Jan 2, 2018 at 4:41 pm
    Lets believe in "We" the people of India, rather I, me, you, me v/s you etc... Lets start 2018 with a message of togetherness and show the world, India is the best!
    1. Nachiket Marathe
      Jan 2, 2018 at 4:24 pm
      Unnecessary publicity
      1. Nachiket Marathe
        Jan 2, 2018 at 4:22 pm
        So there is an Evolution of another party..... Nothing to even look at this as they are getting unnecessary publicity...
        1. ashish bagade
          Jan 2, 2018 at 9:15 am
          These bast s will repent their act. They CANNOT suppress the dalit voice anymore. Dalits CUT them open Just like they did in 1818 in this battle. 500 Dalits MASSACRED 10000 peshwa Brahmins. If they don't mend their ways a holocaust is coming their way. BE CAREFUL BRAHMINS...BE VERY VERY CAREFULL !!
          1. thanveerul haq Kamal
            Jan 2, 2018 at 11:20 am
            Bhai, Already the huge rise in hate crimes against Muslims of India and enmity between Hindus and Muslims in the country is not enough to destabilize our country, and this new caste war will further divide our country into pieces, If we want to live happily, its better for all to be one, and think as one, we educated people should strive to create harmony instead of inflammatory comments, In my views Dalits are far more rational than the Bhramins, so Dalits should spread the rationality among their brothers. Stop Hate speeches on public platform or personally to any one.
            1. Ritesh Bhamare
              Jan 2, 2018 at 2:17 pm
              We all responsible citizens of the country should not get indulge in a fight over caste and religion. Enough of we all have seen after the unpleasant incidence of 1992 / 93 which till date creates turbulence in the country, let us not repeat the same things by speaking hatred provocative remarks. We must learn from History and not to repeat the mistakes anymore. Some groups of people in our own community purposely spread the hatred for their own selfish benefits, let us not get provoked by that allow these people to take control over our minds. Be a True Indian and behave like a true nation lover, spread a msg of humanity and work for development of the society rather than discrimination.
              1. Mahesh Kelkar
                Jan 2, 2018 at 10:59 pm
                Why are you so hyper?cool.view history as it is.Mahars have history of courage and doubt about need to be so hyper and violent .cool and think.Dont get carried away by fabricated posts on social media.check reliability of sources.I am Brahmin and I have many Budhist friends.We all have a common history about which we should be proud but unbias.hope you get my feelings