People with saffron flags allegedly attack Dalits going to Bhima Koregaon memorial near Pune
This annual gathering was to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the last Anglo-Maratha battle.
Clashes were reported on Monday near Bhima Koregaon, a village 30 kilometres north east of Pune in Maharashtra.
Individuals with saffron flags reportedly pelted stones at cars going towards the village, where lakhs of people gather every New Year’s Day to commemorate the victory of the English, whose troops comprised mostly of Mahar soldiers, against the Brahmin Peshwa-led Maratha Empire in 1818. This is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
“The situation is bad and there is trouble in all directions,” Police Inspector Ramesh Galande of the Shikrapur police station, under whose jurisdiction Koregaon Bhima falls, told Scroll.in earlier on Monday.
In the evening, he said that the crowd had reduced. “We are still investigating which groups were involved in this. The situation is still tense, but the roads are open and cars and buses are plying normally.”
Inspector Kunte of the Shirur police station said that personnel were also stationed at Vadhu Budruk, the village where Sambhaji Maharaj, the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, was murdered. This is also the village of Ganpat Gaikwad, who belonged to the Mahar caste and had conducted Sambhaji’s last rites in defiance of an imperial order from Aurangzeb. Kunte confirmed that there was an attack at Gaikwad’s memorial last week.
On Sunday, Dalit and leftist groups commemorated the battle with a programme outside Shanivar Wada in Pune. This was the seat of the Peshwai, the Brahmin rulers of the Maratha Empire who rigidly enforced caste discrimination.
The police had imposed Section 144 in the area since Sunday ahead of the commemoration event, a representative at the police control room of Pune Rural told Scroll.in. “We are waiting for updates from there,” the representative added.
Pictures and videos on social media show that many cars and buses were battered, and some vehicles were set on fire.
A report on Sabrang India said that violence began around noon, when local villagers began to pelt stones at those near the site.
Somnath Waghmare, a filmmaker who has made a documentary film on Bhima Koregaon, said this was the largest gathering he had seen at the site in the last five years.