Karni Sena, which represents the upper caste Rajputs, has demanded that the Maharashtra government should demolish the memorial located near Pune that commemorates the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, and ban the annual celebration related to the event, The Indian Express reported on Friday.
In a letter to Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the Karni Sena’s Maharashtra unit chief Ajay Sengar alleged that the memorial celebrates the victory of British over Marathas and so it was treacherous to valourise it.
The annual Bhima Koregaon event is celebrated to commemorate the victory of members of the Dalit Mahar caste – who fought for the British – over the Brahmin Peshwa-ruled Maratha empire on January 1, 1818. The Maratha empire’s Peshwa prime ministers were known for their rigid enforcement of caste segregation.
Dalits mark the battle as the first major step in their struggle against caste-based discrimination. On January 1 every year, lakhs of Ambedkarites from across India visit the village to celebrate the victory. In 1821, the British empire erected a Vijay Stambh (victory memorial) to mark the day.
Meanwhile, the Karni Sena’s objections to the event has evoked a sharp reaction from leaders of the the Congress and other Opposition parties.
Former minister and Congress leader Nitin Raut said on Thursday that his party will give a befitting reply if the Rajput organisation tries to break the victory memorial, reported PTI.
“Maharashtra is a peaceful state and this type of threat and provocation by some organisations is not good,” he said. “The organisation is provoking Bhim devotees and trying to create a rift in society.”
Republican Party of India (Kharat faction) National President Sachin Kharat also objected to Sengar’s remarks.
“He always makes such statements,” Kharat said, according to The Indian Express. “His demands are completely unjustified and show he has no knowledge of history. This man should be arrested under the National Security Act for making such statements.”
Security has already been beefed up at the memorial in view of the celebrations in 2018, when caste violence had broken out in the Bhima Koregaon village and its surrounding areas, reported Deccan Herald.
Videos of the violence on January 1, 2018, had predominantly shown people with saffron flags and shirts attacking those with blue flags. Over the next few months, as the Pune police investigated the incident, they claimed to have unearthed a Maoist conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and overthrow the government.
Sixteen activists, academics and lawyers have been arrested in relation to the violence. The police claim that these persons were involved in organising the Elgar Parishad event on December 31, 2017, and their provocative speeches at this event led to violence the next day.
However, Sub-Divisional Police Officer Ganesh More has told a two-member judicial commission, investigating the violence, that nine cases of atrocities filed within his jurisdiction and investigated by him showed that there was no link between the Elgar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence.