In clashes that broke out on Monday during celebrations to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, one person was killed and five others injured.
The violence in Bhima Koregaon village, about 40 km from Pune in Maharashtra, spread to nearby villages as individuals with saffron flags reportedly pelted stones and thrashed vehicles.
People with saffron flags allegedly attack Dalits going to Bhima Koregaon memorial near Pune yesterday
and no news in media ,all were silent like nothing was happened.MH CM and
part time home minister failed to maintained law n order #ShameOnCM pic.twitter.com/MfcnqeCY1n
— Umesh Warhade (@umeshw14) January 2, 2018
Lakhs of people were going to the village to celebrate the victory of Dalit Mahar soldiers against the Peshwa. On January 1, 1818, these soldiers of the British army fought with great valour and stopped Peshwa Baji Rao II from attacking Pune. The Peshwa were said to have instituted oppressive caste practices.
Monday’s violence resulted from an altercation between two unidentified groups near the memorial of the British-era battle.
Police resorted to caning the crowd and called for additional reinforcements. It wasn’t clear who had begun the altercation or over what subject, reported Hindustan Times.
“We have deployed heavy police bandobast even as tension continues in some areas on Pune-Ahmednagar highway. We are hoping that by midnight situation will be under control,” Rao told Hindustan Times.
Since Sunday, Section 144 of the CrPC was already imposed in the area and internet shutdown to prevent the circulation of messages instigating violence.
The Bhima Koregaon battle is regarded by many in the Dalit community as a victory of the oppressed classes against the upper-caste. However, this year’s celebrations were mired with controversies. Several groups, including a Hindutva group of Brahmins called ‘Akhil Bharatiya Brahman Mahasangh’ termed the event anti-national. The celebration included speakers such as Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of BR Ambedkar, activist Umar Khalid from JNU, Jignesh Mevani, etc.
Sources have said that the violence first erupted in Vadu, a village near Bhima Koregaon. As news of the agitation spread, Dalit groups took out protests in Pune and Aurangabad.
Union minister of state for social justice Ramdas Athawale demanded police protection for Dalits and asked Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for additional forces in Bhima Koregaon.
The police have said that no arrests have yet been made.