PUNE: The residents of Bhima-Koregaon village, the epicentre of caste violence in Maharashtra, today blamed "outsiders" for the January 1 incidents and claimed there was inadequate security for the mega gathering that preceded the unrest.
Sunita Kamble, 'sarpanch' (headman) of Bhima-Koregaon, said all the communities in the village, including Dalits and Marathas, have been living peacefully. The villagers also sought compensation for people who suffered losses in the rioting and vandalism.
Earlier this week, the event to mark 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, in which forces of the British East India Company defeated Peshwa's army, was marred by incidents of violence, in which one person was killed.
Right-wing groups were blamed for the violence.
Following this, Dalit organisations called for a Maharashtra bandh on January 3 during which normal life was crippled in Mumbai and other parts of the state.
The bandh also saw attacks on police personnel and damage to public and private property by protesters.
A group of residents of Bhima-Koregaon today organised a press conference and spoke about the entire episode, which has brought simmering caste conflict in the state to the fore.
They alleged that "outside" elements unleashed the violence and destroyed and torched their shops and houses.
The villagers sought a compensation of Rs 1 crore to the next of the kin of Rahul Phatangale, who was killed during the clashes.
Sunita Kamble said, "All the communities in the village, including Dalits and Marathas, have been living peacefully. In the future too, we will continue to live in peace. The unrest in the village was unleashed by some outside elements." "We appeal for peace and demand that the government pay compensation to the people whose properties such as shops, houses and vehicles were destroyed in the violence," she said.
A villager accused the local authorities of "negligence" and said despite knowing that lakhs of people come to Bhima- Koregaon on January 1 every year, they failed to provide adequate security arrangements, which led to the violence.
Recalling the ordeal, another resident Vrushali Gavhane claimed women, children and elderly people were attacked by mobs.
"In the last three days, we have been facing a lot of issues. There is no water, electricity in the village but unfortunately the government has not taken any cognisance of the situation," Gavhane lamented.
She alleged that some "outside" people even tried to assault a visually-impaired girl.
Every year, villagers help the visitors who come to commemorate the battle of Bhima-Koregaon by facilitating parking places and providing eatables and drinking water to them, Gavhane added.
Meanwhile, the villagers resolved to rebuild the 'samadhi' of Govind Gaikwad, a Dalit, in Vadhu Budruk near Bhima-Koregoan which was vandalised by a mob.