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Bombay HC allows state to enter disputed land near Jaystambh for Jan 1 event preparations

As per the order passed by Justice Bharati Dangre on Wednesday, the government has been permitted to enter the ‘suit land' to make necessary arrangements for the public to visit the Jaystambh till January 5.

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: December 24, 2021 8:19:34 am
Bhima Koregaon battle, Battle of Bhima Koregaon, Jaystambh, Bombay HC, Bhima Koregaon anniversary, Pune, Pune news, Indian express, Indian express news, Pune latest news"Upon the expiry of the aforesaid period, the state and its officials shall remove themselves from the site by restoring it to its original position as it stood, when the possession is taken over," the court order stated. (File)

The Bombay High Court (HC) has allowed the Maharashtra government to enter the disputed land near the Jaystambh (war memorial) at Perne village to make arrangements for the January 1 programme to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.

As per the order passed by Justice Bharati Dangre on Wednesday, the government has been permitted to enter the ‘suit land’ to make necessary arrangements for the public to visit the Jaystambh till January 5.

“Upon the expiry of the aforesaid period, the state and its officials shall remove themselves from the site by restoring it to its original position as it stood,
when the possession is taken over,” the order stated.

As per historical records, Jaystambh was erected at Perne village by the British government in 1821 in memory of its soldiers who fought against the Peshwas at Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 1818. Later, the Britishers appointed their soldier Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar (Malvadkar), who was wounded in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, as the in-charge of the Jaystambh on December 13, 1824.

Successors of Jamadar say that as per the Sanad given to Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar by the British government, possession of around 260 acres of land, along with the Jaystambh land, was given to their family.

In 2015, the Bhima Koregaon Vijay Stambh Saurakshan and Savardhan Samiti, a private outfit, wrote a letter to Rajkumar Badole, the then minister of social justice, alleging that the Jamadar family’s name was illegally included on 7/12 extract of Jaystambh land. The Samiti demanded that the Jamadar family’s name be removed from Jaystambh land, alleged encroachments done by them should be cleared and action be taken for preventing further encroachments, as lakhs of
Ambedkarites who visit Jaystambh every year on January 1 face problems due to lack of space at the spot.

Following the letter, the government had initiated action against Jamadar. Honorary Captain Balasaheb Jamadar, a successor of Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar, rejected the allegations and moved a civil court in Pune, seeking an order of permanent injunction to restrain the state government from dispossessing them from the Jaystambh land.

In December 2017, the court passed an order against Jamadar, who then moved the Bombay High Court. The matter is still pending before the High Court and the status quo in this case continued.

The court is scheduled to hear Jamadar’s petition on March 1 next year.

Meanwhile, just as it did last year, the government, through the Pune district collector, filed an application before the HC and sought permission to enter the disputed land to make arrangements for the January 1 programme at Jaystambh.

Jamadar’s lawyer S S Bedekar submitted that they have no objection to the January 1 programme. But Bedekar said they have some concerns, pointing out that even before the order granting status quo, a government regulation forming a committee for organising the celebrations of the ‘Shauryadin’ at the Jaystambh, has been issued. Bedekar also submitted that the Ministry of Social Justice has sanctioned Rs 100 crore for the beautification and development of Jaystambh and the adjoining areas.

As per the narrative of Ambedkarite Dalits, a British Army comprising 500 Mahar community soldiers defeated a 25,000-strong force of Peshwas (who were upper-caste Brahmins) in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. So, lakhs of people, mainly from the Ambedkarite Mahar community, visit the Jaystambh on January 1 to pay tribute to the Mahar soldiers in the British Army who “fought a war for freedom” against alleged casteism of the Peshwas.

However, according to Jamadar, both British and Peshwa forces comprised soldiers from different castes and religions, and so the history of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon “should not be distorted and used for making any casteist remarks”.

Citing the GR, which stated that over 5 lakh visitors come for the January 1 event, Bedekar told the court that the state should protect Jamadar’s house and property near Jaystambh. The court ordered the state to “ensure that the peaceful possession of the petitioner over the suit house and the adjoining area is not disturbed.”

The court also told the state’s lawyer P V Samant that steps should be taken to restrict the number of visitors in view of the spread of the Omicron of Covid-19 .

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