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Monday, January 24, 2022

Bombay High Court permits Maharashtra govt to enter disputed land around Koregaon Bhima war monument

The government has been permitted to enter the 'suit land' to make necessary arrangements for the public to visit the victory pillar from December 22 to January 5.

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: December 23, 2021 1:09:47 pm
Bombay High Court permits Maharashtra govt to enter disputed land around Koregaon Bhima war memorialThe 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 variant of Covid-19. The court will hear Jamadar's petition on March 1, 2022. (File Photo)

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

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 victory pillar (Jaystambh) from December 22 to 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.

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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 had appointed their soldier Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar (Malvadkar), who was wounded in the Battle of Koregaon Bhima, as the in-charge of the Jaystambh on December 13, 1824.

Successors of Jamadar say that as per ‘Sanad’ given to Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar by the British government, possession of around 260 acres of awarded 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. 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 visiting 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. Then, 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.

So, like last year, the government through the Pune district collector filed an application before the HC and sought permission to enter on the disputed land to make arrangements for the January 1 programme at Jaystambh.

Jamadar’s lawyer S S Bedekar submitted they have no objection to the January 1 programme. But Bedekar said they have some concerns like even before the order granting status quo, a government regulation (GR) 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 crores for beautification and development of Jaystambh and the adjoining area.

According to Jamadar, who are from the Maratha community, both British and Peshwa forces consisted of soldiers from different castes (upper and lower) and religions and so the history of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon “should not be distorted and used for making any casteist remarks”.

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 Koregaon Bhima. So, lakhs of people, mainly from the Ambedkarite Mahar community, turn up on January 1 to pay homage at Jaystambh and believe that Mahar soldiers in the British Army fought a “war for freedom” against alleged casteism of the Peshwas.

Meanwhile, citing the GR that stated over about 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 variant of Covid-19. The court will hear Jamadar’s petition on March 1, 2022.

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