The programme to mark the 203rd anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima at the “Jaystambh” in Perne village was held peacefully on Friday. Besides senior Dalit leaders and ministers, only a few thousand people turned up for the programme in view of Covid-19.
Police said there was good response to the appeal made by the state government and Ambedkarite outfits that people should not visit “Jaystambh” and see the “symbolic” programme to mark the anniversary of Battle of Koregaon Bhima live on television channels and social media.
Prakash Ambedkar of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, Anandraj Ambedkar of Republican Sena, Union minister Ramdas Athavale, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad alias Ravan, Maharashtra Energy Minister Nitin Raut were among the Dalit leaders who participated in the programme.
Also, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, local NCP MLA Ashok Pawar paid their respects at the “Jaystambh”.
The “symbolic” ceremonies began with Buddhist monks performing Buddha Vandana and Dhamma Desana prayers at “Jaystambh”. Members of Samata Sainik Dal conducted drill with a band on the occasion. Huge police force was deployed at “Jaystambh” and villages in its vicinity to maintain law and order. Violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018 had caused the death of one person and left several persons injured.
As per a Dalit narrative, the British forces then comprising a large proportion of Mahar community soldiers overpowered the Peshwa forces in that single-day battle at Koregaon village on January 1, 1818. The Dalit community sees this as their victory over the alleged “casteist” rule of Peshwas. Every year, several Dalits, mainly from the Ambedkarite Dalit community, visit the “Jaystambh”. Last year on January 1 there were about eight lakh visitors here.
But, in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, Collector Rajesh Deshmukh earlier issued a prohibitory order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 which prohibited people from outside from visiting the Jaystambh at Perne village between December 30, 2020 and 6 am on January 2, 2021.
Special inspector general of police Manoj Lohiya, Pune rural police SP Abhinav Deshmukh closely monitored the security arrangements in the area on Friday.
Traffic was diverted at Wagholi and Shikrapur on Pune-Ahmednagar road. Only those having passes issued by the police were allowed to travel towards “Jaystambh”. Drone cameras were used for keeping a close watch on the movement of visitors.
District Collector Deshmukh said, “The Koregaon Bhima Battle anniversary celebrations were conducted in a peaceful manner. All the departments including the district administration, police, health, public works department — worked in tandem for the smooth conduct of the event. The Pune Rural SP office had issued over 3,000 passes to visitors. Those with passes and some more number of people were also granted access following all the norms. All the visitors were checked for Covid symptoms and sanitisation norms were adhered to. The ceremonies were broadcast on social media and Doordarshan for people across the state.”
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