PUNE — Ahead of the one year anniversary of the violence witnessed at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in Pune district on 1 January 2018, Pune police said it has taken preventive action against over 1,200 people to avoid repeat of the incident. In Mumbai, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and some of his followers were detained on Friday.
Azad, who is expected to be in Pune on 31 December and visit the memorial, was kept at Hotel Manali in Malad, with several police officers stationed outside his room,Indian Express reported. DCP Vinay Rathod was outside the main gate of the hotel, the daily said.
On Saturday on Twitter, Azad posted photos from inside the hotel, showing police officials standing outside his room.
While police told the daily that a few of Azad’s supporters had been detained for obstructing traffic, an official told PTI that no activist, including Azad, had been detained.
Every year on 1 January, thousands of Dalits gather in Bhima Koregaon, on the outskirts of Pune city, to mark the anniversary of a battle won by a British army, largely comprising Dalit soldiers, against an army of Peshwas in 1818. In 2018, the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle was marred by violence, carried out allegedly by Hindutva groups carrying saffron flags.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) accused the Maharashtra government of repression and said that its members had gone to meet Azad at Manali Hotel when the detention took place.
Azad was held at the hotel under heavy police presence after being denied permission to hold a ‘Save the Constitution’ rally at Worli’s Jamboree Maidan, the CPI (M) statement said. It further alleged that hundreds of false cases had earlier been lodged against several Dalit and human rights activists.
Meanwhile, NCP leader Jitendra Awhad Saturday tweeted that he met Azad at the hotel where he was allegedly detained. Awhad dubbed Azad’s “detention” as “murder” of the latter’s fundamental rights.
Pune police on alert
Pune police on Saturday said the preventative action take by it included barring 64 persons from entering the Bhima Koregaon memorial area and `externment’ (eviction from the district) of six others.
Those who have been prohibited from visiting Bhima Koregaon and the surrounding area include right-wing Hindu leader Milind Ekbote and members of the left-leaning cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM).
Some of these people are facing serious cases in connection with the January 1 violence and “such people will be kept away from the event” this time, Pune rural Superintendent of Police Sandip Patil said.
District collector Naval Kishore Ram said that seven to ten lakh people are expected to visit the war memorial on January 1.
The administration has held several meetings with local people and taken measures to create a “positive environment”, he said.
Police check posts have been set up along the border of Pune district, he said.
Besides large-scale police deployment, 500 CCTV cameras, 11 drone cameras and 40 video cameras will monitor the area, he said.
(With inputs from PTI)