A few days ago it was reported that controversial Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and JNU student of ‘anti-national slogans fame’ Umar Khalid, would be attending an event to celebrate the victory of British East India Company over an army led by Peshwa Baji Rao II of Maharashtra, who headed the Maratha empire.
We had reported how, even though it was a victory of imperialists over our own Indian rulers, certain practitioners of alternative history have spun it as a ‘Dalit victory’ as the British army was supposedly comprised of Dalits and other lower castes while the ruling Peshwas were Brahmins.
Jignesh and Khalid were supposed to speak at the bicentennial celebrations of this ‘victory’ which were going to take place on 1st January, 2018. As per reports, both Jignesh and Khalid ended up attending the event, and were also joined by mother of Rohith Vemula.
The event did take place but not before the whole celebration marred by serious violence in the Pune district, which resulted in the death of one person. As per reports, the violence began when a group of people and those heading towards the war memorial in Bhima Koregaon got into a heated quarrel, in a village called Vadu. This fight, the report claims, triggered stone pelting and the violence began.
The initial altercation took place at about 11:30 AM on Monday and was supposedlystarted due to disagreements over some hoardings. The violence resulted in 25 vehicles getting torched and 50 others got damaged. Among the vehicles damaged was a police van. A total of five persons were injured, out of which one later succumbed to his injuries. Apart from Vadu, other villages named Sanawadi and Shikrapur too were engulfed in violence.
After the news about the violence spread, Dalit groups decided to protest against it in Pune and Aurangabad. The police in order to quell the violence, blocked the Pune-Ahmednagar road, apart from imposing section 144. The mob perpetrating the violence was brought into control by the police at about 1:30 PM. The authorities also stationed two CRPF companies at Shikrapur to prevent further trouble.
One report claimed that the main event ‘celebrating’ the victory at Jay-stambh in Bhima Koregaon was largely peaceful and the full force of the violence was felt in the nearby villages.
While it is not clear as to who started the violence, Vishwas Nangre-Patil, the IGP (Kolhapur range) claimed that trouble broke out after a few people with saffron flags visited the area and later villagers started pelting stones, and indulged in arson.