Internet services were shut down in Koregaon Bhima and neighbouring villages on Wednesday as lakhs poured in to pay tributes at the ‘Jay Stambh’ on the 202nd anniversary of Koregaon Bhima battle.
Pune District Police told Indian Express a call on restoring services in the area would be taken in the evening. Officials estimated 3-4 lakh people had visited the victory pillar since the evening of December 30. Hindustan Times reported nearly five lakh Dalits had gathered in the venue.
On Wednesday Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi president Prakash Ambedkar had arrived at the village to pay their respects.
People congregate every year at the ‘Jay Stambh’ (victory pillar) near Koregaon Bhima village to offer tributes on the anniversary of the battle, which was fought on January 1, 1818 between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy.
Several Dalit groups observe the anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle, in which the British defeated the Peshwas of Maharashtra.
The memorial, located at Perne village on Pune- Ahmednagar road, was constructed by the British in the memory of soldiers who died in the battle.
Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory as soldiers from the Mahar community were part of the East India Company’s forces.
The Peshwas were Brahmins, and the victory is seen as a symbol of assertiveness by Dalits.
On January 1, 2018, violence had broken out during the bicentenary celebrations of the Koregaon Bhima battle in which one person was killed and several others were injured.
This year the police have made elaborate security arrangements to ensure no untoward incident takes place during the congregation at the victory pillar, an official told PTI.
After visiting the victory pillar, Pawar said he came to offer tributes on behalf of the people of Maharashtra.
“This pillar has history and every year lakhs of people come here. Some untoward incidents took place two years ago, but the government is taking utmost care and elaborate police bandobast has been made here to ensure that no untoward incident takes place,” he told reporters.
Pawar also urged people to visit the war memorial in a peaceful manner.
“I appeal to people to come here and offer their tributes, but maintain peace and do not believe in rumours,” the NCP leader said.
Prakash Ambedkar also offered his tributes at the victory pillar.
Pune Police last week issued notices to several people, including right-wing leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, and members of Kabir Kala Manch, barring them from entering the district for four days from December 29.
The notices, as part of preventive action, were issued to all those against whom cases were registered in connection with the violence two years ago.
Ekbote was arrested in March 2018 for allegedly instigating and orchestrating the violence around Koregaon Bhima. Bhide was also booked and named in the FIR, but never arrested.
(With PTI inputs)