Bhima Koregaon Battle Anniversary: Maharashtra, Union Ministers Pay Tributes

The 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in 2018 had turned violent, leading to the arrest of several Leftist activists.

Bhima Koregaon Battle Anniversary: Maharashtra, Union Ministers Pay Tributes

A Dalit rally at Bhima Koregaon in January 2018, days after the violence.

New Delhi:

The 203rd anniversary of the historic Bhima Koregaon battle today saw a bunch of senior political leaders, including Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, paying tributes today at the memorial site near Pune even as COVID-19-related restrictions kept others from making the annual pilgrimage.

Every year, thousands of people visit "Jay Stambh" at Perne village in Maharashtra on January 1 to mark the 1818 battle in which the Mahar Regiment of the British East India Company defeated the Peshwa army. The tradition of commemorating the victory was strengthened with Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar's 1927 visit which saw the construction of "Jay Stambh", the memorial. Dr Ambedkar viewed the war victory as one of Dalits' (Mahar) over the Peshwa Brahmins - a sore point in recent years.

"The battle (Bhima Koregaon Battle) was a fight against untouchability that was being followed during the Peshwa rule and it received success," said Prakash Ambedkar, who was among other political personalities to visit the memorial today, PTI reported. The grandson of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, he is President of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi outfit and a three-time Parliamentarian.

Visiting "Jay Stambh", Minister Athawale said he would write to the education minister to include the history of Bhima Koregaon battle in textbooks, according to a PTI report.  

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The memorial burst into national consciousness in 2018, when, on the battle's 200th anniversary, violence broke out during the annual event between pilgrims and Hindutva activists. One person was killed and several injured in the clash.

A probe into the violence led to the arrest of a bunch of Leftist activists such as Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, and Varavara Rao, who were accused of having instigated the violence.