Internet was shut down in Bhima Koregaon near Pune and neighbouring villages as almost five lakh Dalits paid tribute at the ‘Jay Stambh’ on the 202nd anniversary of Koregaon battle, on Wednesday, January 1.
As many as 10,000 police personnel were deployed at the venue and suspended access to the Internet to prevent the spread of rumours on social media, Hindustan Times reported. Schools, colleges and offices were shut for the day and traffic towards the Pune–Ahmednagar highway was diverted for better crowd management.
Tight security was deployed at the venue considering the sensitive nature of the event. In 2018, one person was killed in violence that broke out during the celebration.
The Koregaon Bhima battle was fought on January 1, 1818, between the 500 Mahar (Dalit) soldiers in the British East India Company and the 25,000 men army of Peshwa (Brahmin) faction of the Maratha Confederacy, in which the British defeated the Peshwas of Maharashtra.
Every year, Dalits assemble at the ‘Jay Stambh’ (victory pillar) near the village to pay homage to the soldiers on the anniversary of the battle.
The memorial was constructed by the British at Perne village on Pune- Ahmednagar road, in the memory of soldiers who lost their lives during the battle.
On January 1, 2018, the celebrations of the Koregaon Bhima battle took a violent turn in which one person died, and several others were injured.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi president Prakash Ambedkar had arrived at the village to pay homage on Wednesday. Pawar said he came on behalf of the people of Maharashtra.
“This pillar has a history, and every year lakhs of people come here. Some untoward incidents took place two years ago, but the government is taking utmost care, and elaborate police bandobast has been made here to ensure that no untoward incident takes place,” Pawar told the media.
आज, भीमा-कोरेगाव स्थळाला भेट दिली. १ जानेवारी १८१८ मध्ये याठिकाणी झालेल्या लढाईत वीरमरण पत्करणाऱ्या आणि अतुलनीय शौर्य गाजवून विजय मिळवणाऱ्या महार रेजिमेंटच्या स्मृतिप्रीत्यर्थ उभारण्यात आलेल्या विजयस्तंभाला पुष्पहार अर्पण करून वीर शहीदांना अभिवादन केलं. pic.twitter.com/HY6iECc746
— Ajit Pawar (@AjitPawarSpeaks) January 1, 2020
“I appeal to people to come here and offer their tributes, but maintain peace and do not believe in rumours,” the NCP leader said.
Prakash Ambedkar also offered his tributes at the victory pillar. Pune Police issued notices to several people last week, including right-wing leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, and members of Kabir Kala Manch, restricting them from entering the district for four days from December 29.
These notices came as part of preventive action and were issued to all those who had cases registered against them in connection with the violence two years ago. Ekbote was arrested in March 2018 for allegedly triggering the violence around Koregaon Bhima. Bhide was also booked and named in the FIR, but never arrested.