Ahead of the January 1 event at “Jaystambh” in Perne village to mark the anniversary of Battle of Koregaon Bhima, huge police security has been provided to Vadhu Budruk village, particularly around the samadhis of legendary king Sambhaji Maharaj, the king’s close associate and poet Kavi Kalash and 17th century Dalit figure Govind Gopal Mahar.
On January 1, thousands of those visiting the “Jaystambh” in Perne are also expected to visit the samadhi of Govind Gopal Mahar in Vadhu Budruk, located about four kilometres from Koregaon Bhima.
Huge police force has been deployed to prevent any untoward incident on January 1 next year. Several CCTV cameras have been installed at important spots in the village. Police have appealed the villagers to avoid any dispute and ensure peace. District superintendent of Pune Rural Police, Sandeep Patil, visited the village on Sunday afternoon for reviewing the security arrangements. Police teams have also been deployed on roads connecting Koregaon Bhima and Vadhu Budruk.
Vadhu Budruk has been at the centre of a dispute for the last few years about who conducted the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, who was killed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1689.
The Marathas believe it was their ancestors, the Shivale Deshmukhs, who defied the orders of Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj. As per Dalit narrative, particularly of the Ambedkarites, it was Govind Gopal Dhegoji Megoji of the Mahar community who performed the last rites on Sambhaji Maharaj. The Dalit Gaikwad family from Vadhu Budruk also claims to be the descendant of Govind Gopal.
Members of Gaikwad family and others had erected a board in Vadhu Budruk on the intervening night of December 28 and 29 in 2107, which stated that Govind Gopal conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj.
The Marathas of the village, who believe it was their ancestors who performed the last rites, removed the board leading to an altercation, in which the shed over the Govind Gopal samadhi got damaged. Vadhu Budruk Gram Panchayat has said that the disputed board was put up illegally without seeking its permission.
Meanwhile, following the altercation, cross complaints were filed by Dalits and Marathas against each other. Sushma Ovhal from the Dalit community filed a complaint against 49 people. Ramakant Shivale from the Maratha community also filed cross complaint alleging that the Dalits had threatened them with retaliation on January 1, 2018.
The matter was settled with the intervention of police and both sides agreed to take their complaints back.
But the dispute is believed to have triggered the violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018, causing death of one person and leaving several others injured.
Pandurang Gaikwad, a Vadhu Budruk villager, who claims to be descendant of Govind Gopal, said, “We are satisfied with the arrangements done by the police and government.” He avoided speaking on the dispute.
Ramakant Shivale, deputy sarpanch, said: “People from all communities want peace. Maintaining law and order is our priority.”