With the 201st anniversary of the Koregaon-Bhima battle set to be observed next month, the Pune Police in Maharashtra is taking all steps to prevent any untoward incident. The 200th anniversary of the battle on January 1 this year was marred by violence, with one person getting killed. To ensure that things do not go out of hand this time, heavy security will be deployed in and around the ‘Jay Stambh’ (victory pillar), Koregaon-Bhima and other adjoining villages, Superintendent of Police, Pune Rural, Sandip Patil said.
He said social media platforms were being monitored to check rumour-mongering and an eye was being kept on anti-social elements.
“There will be heavy police bandobast in and around Koregaon-Bhima. The State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) companies, home guards and district administration officials will also be deployed,” he said
Patil said police deployment for the 201st anniversary of the battle will be at par with the security set up in Pandharpur on ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’ or during a Kumbh mela. In the last couple of months, Patil and Pune Collector Naval Kishore Ram visited Koregaon-Bhima, Perne, Sanaswadi, Lonikand and Shikrapur villages in the district.
“We have been holding meetings with villagers to ensure that unlike last year, no shops, hotels and other commercial establishments remain shut on the day and visitors are accorded a warm welcome,” Patil said.
The district administration wants to create a “positive environment” for visitors, he said.
This time, no food stall would be allowed to be set up without permission from police or the authorities concerned, Patil said, adding that those organising rallies near the victory pillar will also have to take nod for it.
“To ensure no private vehicle reaches near the Jay Stambh, we have decided to keep parking spaces at a distance of 2 km from the venue and provide bus service to ferry visitors to the obelisk from there,” he added.
Violence had erupted near Koregaon-Bhima on January 1 when Dalit groups were commemorating the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, in which the British defeated the Peshwas of Maharashtra.
The memorial, located at Perne village on Pune-Ahmednagar road, was constructed by the British in the memory of soldiers who died in the battle.
Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory as soldiers from the Mahar community were part of the East India Company’s forces. The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of assertiveness by Dalits. After the incident on January 1, police installed CCTV cameras around the memorial premises and set up a help centre outside its gate. They have also been maintaining a record of contact details of the visitors.