In the past few months, the Maharashtra Police has come across over 25,000 social media posts urging people to join them at Koregaon Bhima in Pune to mark the annual celebratory gathering of the battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1.
While thousands of posts have been deleted, the police are now keeping a watch on such posts, analysing them and trying to have a dialogue with the stakeholders and local leaders to ensure that the upcoming celebrations go off peacefully.
In the aftermath of the 2018 violence at Koregaon Bhima, the Dalit-Maratha agitation and the passing of the Maratha reservation bill seeking quota in education and jobs, the police anticipate that the turnout would be almost double as compared to last year.
“Most of these posts are inciting in nature, prodding people to join them during the annual celebrations. While we have deleted a few thousand posts, the exercise is not tenable. We have decided that instead of deleting these posts, we would observe the kind of messages that is being spread through social media. We have decided to engage with the local community leaders and other stakeholders to ensure that the celebrations go off peacefully,” said an officer from the DGP office who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Through the social media posts, we have been able to make an rough estimate of the kind of mobilisation that is being made and the number of people targeted. This time around, we anticipate less number of women and children and the crowd will mostly comprise youngsters between the age group of 15 to 45 years. The social media posts are targetting the young crowd,” the officer added.
Another officer said that the posts circulated aren’t limited to one community or group but the Koregaon Bhima annual celebration is being used as a ploy by every community to assert their dominance in a state, which will be going to polls next year.
“Between the last year’s violence and the upcoming event, a lot has happened in the state — Maharashtra has witnessed statewide bandhs, the Dalit-Maratha agitation gathered momentum and the Maratha reservation bill was cleared… All this will have a bearing on the upcoming event, as the members from both the communities would like to assert their dominance in an election year,” the officer added.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Koregaon Bhima violence last year, the DGP office, in a report submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs, had stated that it suspects that while the agitation called by Dalit group and left-wing organisations had support from “left extremist groups”, the local Savarna (non-Dalit) villagers were instigated by “right-wing” organisations.
This year too, sources said that efforts have been made through social media by both the left and right extremist groups in reaching out to people.
“We suspect that these posts have not only been generated by the two communities but the left and the right extremists groups are equally involved. While the arrests of the urban naxals might have deterred them, but we anticipate their participation this time around as well,” the officer said.