Updated: January 1, 2022 9:43:55 am
The Jaystambh or military monument in Perne, erected by the British in memory of soldiers who died in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818, has been decorated with the insignia of the Indian Army’s Mahar Regiment to mark the 204th anniversary of the battle on January 1, Saturday. This time, the monument has been decorated with flowers, the Tricolour as well as the Mahar Regiment insignia on it.
The Jaystambh was erected by the British government in 1821 in memory of its soldiers who fought against the Peshwas or Maratha forces at Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 1818. Later, the British had appointed their soldier Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar (Malvadkar), who was injured in the battle, as the in-charge of the Jaystambh on December 13, 1824.
As per a Dalit narrative, a British Army comprising 500 soldiers from the Dalit Mahar community defeated a 25,000-strong force of Peshwas (who were Brahmins) in the battle. Lakhs of people, mainly from the Ambedkarite Mahar community, visit the Jaystambh on January 1 to pay tribute to the soldiers who, they believe, fought a war for freedom against the alleged casteism of the Peshwas.
However, according to descendants of Jamadar, who are from the Maratha community, both British and Peshwa forces consisted of soldiers from different castes. They have urged that the history of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon “should not be distorted and used for making any casteist remarks”.
Retired Indian Army officer Honorary Captain Balasaheb Jamadar, a sixth-generation descendant of Kandojibin Gajoji Jamadar, said, “In the 1818 battle, the British Army comprised the First Bombay Native Infantry, Madras Artillery and Poona Auxiliary Horse. The Mahar Regiment did not exist in 1818 and it was raised in 1941. As per my knowledge, initially, the Jaystambh was part of the insignia of the Mahar regiment. But later it was removed, and now we see the Mahar regiment insignia with a pair of crossed Vickers medium machine guns, and a dagger. Going by historical facts, the Mahar Regiment can’t be linked to battle of Koregaon Bhima”
Meanwhile, this year, the Maharashtra government’s Ministry of Social Justice is organising the January 1 event at Jaystambh. The Pune district administration has made several arrangements in the area as lakhs of people usually visit the Jaystambh on the anniversary of the battle.
The PMPML has arranged free bus services from various locations to Perne.
However, in view of rising cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19, the state government has banned public meetings, protests, and even food and book stalls near the Jaystambh. Police have also warned that action will be taken if any objectionable social media posts and hoardings about the event are found in public places.
A large police force has been deployed near Jaystambh, in Koregaon Bhima area and also at the historic Vadhu Budruk village, which has the samadhi of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. Vadhu Budruk also has a disputed tomb-like structure, which, according to the Dalit Mahar community, is the samadhi of Govind Gopal Dhegoji Meghoji, a 17th-century Dalit figure. Marathas from Vadhu Budruk village believe it was their ancestors, the Shivale Deshmukhs, who defied the orders of Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj after he was
killed by the Mughal emperor in 1689. The Dalit Mahar community, however, claims that Govind Gopal performed the last rites of the king.
The Gaikwad family from the village claim to be successors of Govind Gopal.
A board with the ‘disputed history’ of Govind Gopal was erected by the Gaikwad family in Vadhu Budruk on the intervening night of December 28 and 29, 2017, and was removed by members of the Maratha community. This led to an altercation, which was seen as one of the triggering factors that led to the violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018, in which one person died and several others were left injured.
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