Bhima-Koregaon anniversary: Conscious vigilance is needed

Bhima-Koregaon

Even though the state government geared up for the Koregaon-Bhima war anniversary with a series of precautionary and security measures, a vigil eyes be there to avoid any untoward incident.

The Battle of Koregaon was fought on 1 January 1818 between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy, at Koregaon Bhima. A 28,000-strong force led by Peshwa Baji Rao II whilst on their way to attack the company-held Pune, were unexpectedly met by an 800-strong Company force that was on its way to reinforce the British troops in Pune. The Peshwa dispatched around 2,000 soldiers to attack the force which sought entrenchment in Koregaon. Led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops defended their position for nearly 12 hours, before the Peshwa’s troops ultimately withdrew, fearing the imminent arrival of a larger British force.

The dead Company soldiers of Indian origin included 22 Mahars. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar visited the site on 1 January 1927. To commemorate his visit to the site, now thousands of his followers visit the site every New Year’s Day.

Last year a violence that broke out following an annual celebratory gathering at Bhima Koregaon to mark the 200th year of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The gathering consisted largely of Buddhists, and interference by upper caste Maratha groups on the Hindu Dalit and Buddhists gathering resulted in escalation of an already tense gathering into violence.

The aftermath consisted of various protests resulting in one death, 30 policemen being injured as well as over 300 people being detained. A Maharashtra bandh was called by Buddhists groups on 3 January 2018. Protests were staged all over Maharashtra. In Mumbai, suburban trains were affected due to which Dabbawalas suspended their services.

Later, police swooped on human rights, civil rights and civil society activists all over India in a bid to arrest ‘Urban Maoist’ activities in the wake of a conference held in Pune on December 31, 2017, on the eve of the Koregaon-Bhima 200th anniversary (January 1, 2018).

In view of earlier experiences, the state should not take any risk this time. There is a report that “urban naxalite’ can also involve themselves in the programme and create problem. However, in a series of pre-emptive measures, the Mumbai Police on Friday detained several people from different areas.

An estimated 800,000-100,000 people from all over the state are expected to arrive here on January 1.

Following a recent plea by the government, the Bombay High Court has given control of the Koregaon-Bhima area to the state government for ensuring security during the 201st anniversary celebrations.

Accordingly, the police have deployed a massive force in and around the village, severe restrictions on movement of pedestrians or vehicular traffic, parking at 11 designated locations, multiple security check-posts, road barricades and a CCTV network in an eight km radius from the memorial complex.

We expect that the anniversary should pass on in a peaceful way and there should not be any sinister game against the state power by the rivals this time!