A Pune court on Saturday granted bail to seven members of the Maratha community, who were arrested on charges under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, following a dispute in Vadhu Budruk village on December 29.
Praful Shivale, former sarpanch of Vadhu Budruk, said the seven persons are likely to be released on Sunday.
According to local residents, the dispute had started after a board with an “inaccurate version” of history was put up at Vadhu Budruk on the night of December 28, near a samadhi or tomb, believed to be of ‘Govind Gopal (Mahar) Gaikwad’, a 17th century Dalit figure.
The board, which local residents claim was put up without seeking permission from the Gram Panchayat, mentioned that Govind Gaikwad had defied the orders of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, after he was killed by Aurangzeb in 1689.
Members of the local Maratha community took objection to the content of the board and allegedly removed it on the morning of December 29. Marathas believe that it was their ancestors who had performed the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.
The incident led to a “quarrel” between the Dalit and Maratha communities. On the same day, Sushma Ovhal (27), the sister of Ashok alias Panda Gaikwad, a resident of Vadhu Budruk, filed a complaint against 49 persons, including village sarpanch Rekha Shivale, deputy sarpanch Sanjay Shivale, former sarpanch Sunita Bhandare, former deputy sarpanch Santosh Shivale and others, under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, on charges of damaging the board and an umbrella covering the tomb of Gaikwad, and “making casteist comments”. Ovhal also named Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote in her complaint, but he was not made an accused.
Ramakant Shivale, a Gram Panchayat member, filed a cross-complaint, claiming members of the Dalit community had threatened them with retaliation on January 1, when lakhs of Dalits visit the ‘Jaystambh’ erected a few km away in Perne. The Jaystambh, or victory memorial, was put up by the British government in memory of soldiers in the British Army who died in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, fought against the army of the Peshwas.
Police had arrested seven local residents under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, while the others named in the FIR had gone into hiding. Both police and local leaders intervened in the matter to restore peace, and the two sides agreed to withdraw their complaints and settle the case on December 31.
The incident in Vadhu Budruk village is believed to have triggered off the violent clashes between Dalits and Marathas near Bhima Koregaon the next day. A 30-year-old resident of Sanaswadi village was killed, and several others were injured, in the clashes.
The violence had delayed the process of withdrawal of complaints in Vadhu Burdruk. The re-construction of the damaged tomb of Govind (Mahar) Gaikwad is also likely to begin on Monday.