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Friday, September 24, 2021

Court rules against Jamadar family in Bhima Koregaon ‘Jaysthambh’ land case

Family claims British govt gave land to ancestor who fought the battle against Peshwas, state govt says they are ‘encroaching’, seeks to remove them

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: December 21, 2017 11:13:20 am
Picture for representational purpose

A civil court on Wednesday rejected an application filed by members of the Jamadar (Malvadkar) family, which had sought an order of permanent injunction, to restrain the state government from evicting them from the Bhima Koregaon(Victory Memorial) land, located at Perne village in Haveli taluka on the Pune-Ahmednagar Road, where, family members claim, they have been living since many years.

Passing an oral order, Joint Civil Judge C P Bhagwat told the Jamadar family that their application has been rejected, and mentioned that they do not hold possession of the land. However, the court extended the status quo in the case for a one-month period, so that the applicants can file an appeal in a higher court.

In April, the Jamadar family had filed a civil suit against three parties — the state government through the Collector of Pune District, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute (BARTI), Pune, an institute under the department of social justice, and the Bhima Koregaon Vijay Stambh Saurakshan and Savardhan Samiti, based in Dombivili. The suit was filed by 53-year-old former serviceman, Subedar Major/ Honorary Captain Balasaheb Anandrao Jamadar (Malvadkar) of New Sangvi, Namdev Gulabrao Jamadar (Malvadkar) (63) and his brother Ashok (60), both residing near Jaystambh. All three claim to be heirs of Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar (Malvadkar), a havaldar in British Army who fought the battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818, in which the British had defeated the Peshwas.

The British had set up Jaysthambh (victory tower) in Perne in the memory of all the officers and men of the British Army who had died in the battle. The Jaysthambh is considered important by members of the Dalit community, as they believe that most of the soldiers in the British Army, who defeated a large army of the Peshwas, belonged to the Mahar caste. They believe that the Mahars fought the battle to end the ‘Brahminical rule’ of the Peshwas. Dr B R Ambedkar had also visited the Jaystambh in the 1920s.

The Jaysthambh on Pune-Ahmednagar Road

The case

On September 9, 2015, the Bhima Koregaon Vijay Stambh Saurakshan and Savardhan Samiti, a Dalit organisation, wrote a letter to State Minister of Social Justice Rajkumar Badole, alleging that the Jamadar (Malvadkar) family’s name was “illegally” included in the 7/12 extract of Jaysthambh land. The Samiti demanded that the Jamadar (Malvadkar) family’s name be removed from the 7/12 extract, the ‘encroachments’ done by them be cleared and action taken to prevent further encroachments. It pointed out that lakhs of followers of B R Ambedkar, who visit the Jaysthambh every year on January 1, face problems due to the space crunch at the venue.

According to the Jamadar (Malvadkar) family, the minister’s remarks for action on this letter were later forwarded to BARTI and the district collector, after which government initiated action against them by razing their structures as “encroachments” and starting process to delete their names from 7/12 extract of the land. The Jamadar family said they got to know from news reports in April 2017 that the minister has directed the district collector and sub-ordinate officers to remove their houses, shed and agricultural produce from the land. They filed a civil suit seeking a permanent injunction.

In the court 

In the suit, Jamadars claimed that their ancestor, Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar (Malvadkar), who was wounded in the battle of Bhima Koregaon, was appointed the caretaker of the ‘Jaysthambha’ on December 13, 1824. Kandojibin’s appointment was based on the recommendation of Captain Staunton, who had led the British attack. The family submitted a sanad no. 338 (a land document) —dated July 30, 1870 — claiming it gave them possession of about 260 acres of land, along with the ‘Jaysthambha’ land, to their family till the time their male progeny continues. The family has also submitted its land records since then.

The court had initially granted relief to Jamadars by ordering a status-quo or interim injunction. Later, district government pleader Ujjwala Pawar and advocate Ajay Gadegaonkar argued that Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar got about 260 acres of land from the British government for livelihood, but he was merely appointed the caretaker of the Jaysthambh land. The lawyers also pointed out that the Jamadar family had used the Jaysthambh land for cultivation and other commercial purpose, which was illegal and against the sanad.

Captain (honorary) Balasaheb Jamadar (Malvadkar), said, “There is conspiracy against us by casteist forces. We would be appealing in higher court for justice… every year, huge crowd visits Jaystambha on January 1, talking about 500 Mahar soldiers defeating 28,000 soldiers of Peshwas. It was not a battle won by any particular caste. Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar was a Maratha and fought bravely in the same battle, and he received the land as an award. Soldiers from different castes in British Army had defeated Peshwas. The real history and facts about this war are being covered up for the personal benefit of some groups.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Ujjwala Pawar said, “The possession of Jaystambh land remains with the government…” But Rajendra Daundkar, the lawyer for the Jamadar family, said, “We are yet to receive a copy of the court order… the court has extended status quo for one month. It is not right to say that possession of the land is with the government”.

Dadabhau Abhang, of Bhima Koregaon Vijay Stambh Saurakshan and Savardhan Samiti said, “We are happy with the order that has come at a time when preparations are on to celebrate the 200th year of victory in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.”

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