January 1, 2022, marks the 204 years of the Koregaon Battle, a battle that holds major historical importance to Dalits. On this day in 1818, 800 troops of the East India Company's Bombay Presidency Army, with 500 Mahars predominant among them, defeated a humungous (28,000) force of the Peshwa Baji Rao II. Britishers erected a victory pillar (Vijay Sthamb) in Koregaon commemorating the dead soldiers.
Historical Significance Of The Day
In 1928, B. R. Ambedkar had led the first commemoration ceremony. Since then, every year on January 1, Ambedkarites gather at Bhima Koregaon to celebrate their victory against the upper caste Peshwa regime of the Maratha Empire, whom they see as their oppressors.
January 2018 Events
On 1 January 2018, about 250 Bahujan groups got together under the banner of "Elgar Parishad and organised a conference at Shaniwar Wada in Pune. The speakers included two retired judges, B.G Kolte-Patil and P. B. Sawant and Jignesh Mevani. The commemoration has a record of being conducted peacefully in the presence of lakhs of Dalit. This year a row sparked over the question of which community has conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj, The Mahar or the Maratha. The panchayat of Bhima Koregaon asked the residents to boycott the events by calling all shops to remain shut.
To protest the violence, Dalit rights groups staged roadblocks and demonstrations across Maharashtra, which (violence) was reported across Pune - a 16-year-old boy was killed during the protest. The aftermath consisted of various protests across Maharashtra, resulting in 30 policemen being injured and over 300 people being detained.
Arrests Made In The Case
Several arrests were made in case Pune Police arrested Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut with alleged Maoist links for inciting violence. Later on, a few more were arrested, including activists Varavara Rao, lawyer Sudha Bhardwaj and activists Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha.
A flurry of tweets poured in today, remembering Bhima Koregaon Battle.