Samasta Hindu Aghadi leader Milind Ekbote, who has been booked on charges of inciting caste violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, has filed an application before the state-appointed inquiry commission, seeking that the Jaystambh in Perne village be handed over to the Indian Army.
On January 1 each year, lakhs of people, including members of the Dalit community, visit the Jaystambh, or war memorial, to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, in which a British Army with a contingent of Mahars defeated the Peshwa regime in 1818. The violence had broken out during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the battle this year.
Ekbote, the prime accused in the case, and three others have also sought that the committee should submit an interim report declaring that the Jaystambh is the commemoration of the battle between the East India Company (British Army) and the Army of Peshwa Bajirao II, without any reference to the Mahar regiment.
The application was filed this week by Ekbote, an organisation he founded, Dharmaveer Sambhaji Maharaj Smruti Samiti, and two residents of Koregaon, Balasaheb Anandrao Jamadar (Malvadkar) and Jayesh Shinde. In the application, the trio claimed that there was a “new threat” to public peace and order, referring to the announcement that a rally will be held by Dalit organisation Bhim Army in Pune on December 30 to mark the anniversary of the battle.
“It appears that there is a recent trend, with a new unsustainable cause, to hold rallies in Pune to commemorate the so-called victory of East India Company Battalion over the Peshwa Army in January 1, 1818…This trend first appeared in 2014, to visit the Jaystambh by making it a flash point to ensure the disturbance of peace and tranquillity in society in the name of caste, creed and false… sense of history (sic),” the application stated.
In their application. Ekbote and others claimed that a rally held last year had “provoked people” and “promoted hatred and division”. It further referred to a deposition by one of the witnesses before the committee, freelance journalist Chandrakant Patil, who claimed that his research shows that the correspondence between British Armymen does not reveal who was victorious in the battle.
The committee, which began its hearing in September, has been appointed to probe the events that led to the violence, as well as subsequent events. The depositions so far, however, have focused on the history of the battles with some narratives also pointing towards the Mahar contingency’s victory and the commemoration taking place for several years.
“The said Jaystambh now being misused for performing religious ceremonies and worshipping thereby…should be handed over to the Second Grenadier of Indian Army…for its maintenance and upkeep and applicant (Malvadkar) be appointed as interim caretaker,” the application stated.
The counsel for the commission, Ashish Satpute, confirmed that the application has been received. It is likely to be heard on December 17, when the hearing of the committee is scheduled to take place.
However, Rahul Dambale, president of the Republic Yuva Morcha and a witness to the Bhima Koregaon violence, said, “The application filed before the commission and the allegations made about distortion of history is from the Hindutva brigade and it is anti-Ambedkarite. The claims made in this plea are to create tension in the area and are without any factual or historical basis. The memorial is already maintained by the Army and there are historical records which show that the commemoration there was done by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1927 and goes back in history much before that as well. Ekbote has been using the platform of the commission to spread misinformation and action should be taken against him for this”. Dambale has also filed an affidavit before the commission.