Annual Dalit rally marred by violence in Pune, 1 killed

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At least one person was killed and many injured on Monday as the event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune district was marred by incidents of stone pelting and vandalism.

Bhima Koregaon

The annual event is marked to commemorate the victory of the British Army comprising Dalits over the upper-caste Peshwas on 1 January, 1818.

A report by PTI said that the incident occurred in Bhima Koregaon in afternoon when people were heading towards a war memorial in the village. Local police said that the violence erupted after a group and some members of the crowd on its way to visit the memorial had an argument over some issue.

“Stone pelting started after the argument. During the violence, vehicles and a house in the vicinity was damaged,” a police officer deployed for bandobast at Bhima Koregaon was quoted by Press Trust of India.

More than five lakh people, mainly from the Dalit community, had reportedly assembled in Pune for the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle. There is no history of this occassion being marred by violence in the past.

One person, identified as Rahul Phatangale (28) of Sanaswadi, was reported killed in an attack by a mob. An offence of murder was lodged at Shikrapur police station. One among those injured was known to be critical, reported Indian Express. He said that the police blocked the vehicular traffic on Pune-Ahmbednagar highway for sometime following the incident.

Meanwhile Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, said that he spoke to Maharashtra chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, and demanded an inquiry into the violence adding that  action must be taken against the culprits so that such incidents don’t recur.

Some Dalit leaders and thinkers view Bhima Koregaon battle as a victory of oppressed classes over the upper-caste establishment of those times.

A Peshwa was the equivalent of a modern Prime Minister in the Maratha Empire. Originally, the Peshwas served as subordinates to the Chhatrapati (the Maratha king), but later, they became the de facto leaders of the Marathas.

Earlier in the day, Dalit leader and Independent MLA from Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani visited the memorial in Bhima Koregaon. Yesterday, he attended “Elgaar parishad” in Pune to commemorate the ‘victory battle’.

Police have appealed to people to maintain calm and not to believe in rumours. Section 144 of CrPc was already imposed in the area.

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