Maharashtra braces for Koregaon-Bhima 201st anniversary

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Pune, Dec 29 (IANS) The Maharashtra government on Saturday geared up for the upcoming 201st anniversary of the Koregaon-Bhima war with a series of precautionary and security measures, officials said.

A massive police deployment has been made in Koregaon-Bhima village and surroundings as an estimated 800,000-100,000 people from all over the state are expected to arrive here on Tuesday (January 1).

They will commemorate the anniversary of the historic Third Anglo-Maratha battle between the 834-strong British force comprising mostly of soldiers from the Dalit Mahar community and the 28,000-strong army of Peshwa Bajirao II, which was vanquished.

The British later erected a victory obelisk (memorial) and the Dalit castes regard it as their symbolic victory over the higher castes, which is celebrated annually on New Year Day, January 1 since the past 200 years.

Last year, however, the celebrations, attended by around 300,000 people had turned violent, killing one and effecting a Maharashtra shutdown on January 3, leading to a major churning in caste and ideological politics.

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 a series of pre-emptive measures, the Mumbai Police on Friday detained Bhim army president Chandrashekhar Azad, seven other leaders and around 350 activists from Malad, Ghatkopar, Kandivali, Dadar, Worli and other areas.

Azad has been kept under detention in the suburban Hotel Manali since Friday, and has been barred from addressing any public meetings in the state, including scheduled rallies at Worli and Pune on Saturday.

His colleagues like Sunil Gaikwar (Mumbai chief), Balraj Dabhade (Marathwada), Sachin Pattebahadur (Western Maharashtra), Akhil Shakya, Pravin Bansode and other office-bearers have also been detained in the same hotel.

The state government also barred Hindutva or right wing leaders like Sambhaji Bhide alias Guruji and Milind Ekbote, besides activists of the Leftist NGO, Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) which had organised the December 31, 2017 Elgaar Parishad in Pune, from Koregaon-Bhima from Sunday till Wednesday.

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 are fully prepared to ensure peaceful and orderly celebrations at Koregaon-Bhima and ensure that no untoward incidents take place,” Inspector-General of Police (Kolhapur Range) Vishwas Nangare-Patil told media persons on Saturday.

–IANS

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