The events to mark the 203rd anniversary of Battle of Bhima-Koregaon began at the Jaystambh at Pune’s Perne village from the early hours of the New Year on Friday.
Ambedkarite organisations and the district administration had urged people to pay respects staying at home on the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. The ceremonies on Friday began with monks performing Buddha Vandana and Dhamma Desana prayers at the Jaystambh. Members of Samata Sena and retired personnel from Mahar Regiment of the Army conducted a drill with a band.
Maharashtra ministers Ajit Pawar, Anil Deshmukh and Nitin Raut were among those who paid their respects at the Jaystambh. The representatives of various Ambedkarite organisations will be paying their respects in the slots allotted to them till afternoon.
On the backdrop of the pandemic, Collector Rajesh Deshmukh has earlier issued a prohibitory order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 which prohibits people from outside from visiting the Jaystambh between December 30, 2020 and 6 am on January 2, 2021. Exemptions have been made for those issued passes for conducting various ceremonies as part of a symbolic programme at the monument. The prohibitory orders are also in force against spreading misinformation and rumours on social media platforms about the Jaystambh in Perne village and various ceremonies taking place there on January 1.
As a precautionary measure, the Pune District Administration barred Hindutva activist Milind Ekbote, some Elgaar Parishad organisers including Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) members, Dalit activists and several other locals from Bhima-Koregaon area from entering or being present in the limits of the district for over three days around the 203rd anniversary of the battle.
It can be recalled that the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyaan had organised the Elgaar Parishad at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017. Next day, on January 1, 2018, the 200th anniversary of the battle, violence was reported in the area leaving at least one person dead and several others injured. Pune Police have claimed that ‘provocative’ speeches at the conference were among the factors that led to the violence, and arrested several human rights activists from across India in connection with the case.
The Elgaar Parishad case, currently being investigated by the National Investigation Agency, has till now led to the arrests of organiser Sudhir Dawale and several activists including Sudha Bhardwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Varavara Rao and Stan Swamy, over their alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist.
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