MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government is not acting against elements trying to divide society, said Bharip Bahujan Maha Sangh (BBMS) leader Prakash Ambedkar said on Tuesday while on a visit to the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial near Pune.
Ambedkar, who was amongst the very first few leaders who visited the memorial, expressed dissatisfaction over action against “divisive forces represented by the likes of Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote who are let scot-free by the government,” while the Elgaar Parishad was being unnecessarily targeted.
In light of last year’s violence at the memorial function, heavy security was put in place this year along with drones and CCTV cameras for monitoring the thousands that throng to pay tribute every year. Arrangements for food, water and parking were also put in place to avoid a build up of crowds. Also, internet services in the area were disconnected throughout the day. Vishnu Phatangade, one of the police personnel deployed had lost his brother, Rahul, in the violence on the same day last year. “The call of duty is bigger than the first death anniversary of my brother. I’m here so that no other Rahul loses his life to violence,” he said to reporters.
Despite the violence last year, the memorial saw more visitors this year. Several people were visiting the place for first time.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad visited the memorial in the evening, however, that too was without any event as he wasn’t allowed to hold any rally at the place.
Security tight on Bhima-Koregaon anniversary
The 1818 Battle of Koregaon is of legendary importance for the Dalits. On 1 January 1818, 800 troops of the British Army, with Mahars (leather workers) predominant among them, defeated a numerically superior force of the Peshwa Baji Rao II
One person was killed and several others were injured in caste clashes that broke out on January 1 last year on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1818 battle, which has attained legendary stature in Dalit history
Prior to the commemoration, about 250 Dalit and Bahujan groups got together under the banner of “Elgar Parishad”[a] and organised a conference at Shaniwar Wada in Pune, the erstwhile seat of the Peshwas. The speakers included two retired judges and Jignesh Mevani, a newly elected member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly
The aftermath consisted of various protests resulting in one death, 30 policemen were injured as well as over 300 people being detained. Police had booked Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide on charges of inciting violence. Both leader, however, were let off subsequently despite severe outrage from activist groups Investigation by the police in the following months resulted in various arrests, such as that of Rona Wilson in June 2018 under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.