Anniversary of Bhima Koregaon; Bhim Army chief to address rally on 1 Jan

Anniversary of Bhima Koregaon; Bhim Army chief to address rally on 1 Jan
Chandrashekhar Azad. File photo: Shakeeb KPA/Maktoob

Azad Samaj Party has announced that its chief and Bhim Army supremo Chandrashekhar Azad will be visiting the ‘Jaystambh’ in Pune on January 1 to mark the anniversary of the battle of Bhima Koregaon.

“This is the 200th year of the erection of Jaystambh. On this occasion, our party chief Chandrashekhar Azad and state president Rahul Pradhan would be visiting the Jaystambh on January 1,” Abhijit Gaikwad, Pune unit president of Azad Samaj Party said.

He further informed Azad would also be addressing a rally in view of civic elections in 2022.

Bhima Koregaon

200 years ago, on January 1, 1818, a small group of Mahar soldiers of the East India Company, led by the British, defeated the massive Peshwa army, led by Peshwa Bajirao II, in Koregaon. This battle has, since, attained legendary stature in Dalit history.

Dalits do not see this from the narrow lens of nationalism versus imperialism. Over the years, as the battle came to be seen as a victory of the Mahars over Brahminical Peshwas, thousands of Ambedkarites have been gathering in Bhima Koregaon on January 1 to pay their respect at the Jaystamvbh (victory pillar).

‘Jaystamvbh’, a military monument erected by the Britishers in the memory of its soldiers who fought this battle, is located at Perne village. The pillar includes the names of the Mahar soldiers who unknowingly brought an end to the Peshwa rule in 1818.

On December 12, 2017, a public meeting by the name of ‘Elgar Parishad’ was organised in Pune at Shanivar Wada, 30 kilometers from Koregaon. On January 1, 2018 a large crowd of Dalits and Bahujans gathered at the Jaystamvbh. They were attacked by armed Hindutva mobs of over 1,000 people, most of them on motorbikes holding saffron flags and shouting religious and political slogans. They engaged in violence including arson, stone-pelting, and attacks with swords, iron rods. This resulted in the death of a 28-year-old man and considerable loss of private and public property.

However, The police had alleged that inflammatory speeches and provocative statements made by several human rights activists and Dalit intellectuals during the Elgar Parishad conclave had contributed to the violence. More than 16 human rights defenders have been languishing in jail under draconian since 2018.