Koregaon Bhima: Thousands of police personnel are deployed at the Dalit war memorial
Pune/Mumbai: A year to this day when violence broke out at Maharashtra's Koregaon Bhima between Dalits and right-wing groups, the police are on their toes to prevent a repeat of the incident. At least 5,000 police personnel, 1,200 Home Guards and 12 companies of the Rapid Action Force and the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have been deployed in and around the war memorial at Koregaon Bhima, dedicated to a battle that saw Dalit soldiers fighting with the British and defeating the army of the upper caste Peshwas or rulers. Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad has said he would visit the war memorial today on the 201st anniversary of the battle.
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- In Pune, where Mr Azad was denied permission by the Bombay High Court to address a gathering on December 30, some 6,000 police personnel along with 200 personnel of the SRPF have been deployed.
- The court has, however, not stopped Mr Azad from visiting the memorial as no permission was needed in the first place for the visit. He has alleged there was an "undeclared emergency" in the country.
- Lakhs of people, especially Dalits, are expected at the war memorial today. Sources said the number of visitors may go higher than last year. Thousands have started arriving. "Internet services in and around Perne village (where the memorial is located) have been snapped," senior police officer Vishwas Nangre-Patil told news agency PTI.
- The police are being supported by drone cameras to keep an eye on the crowd. They have also installed cameras at discreet places to look for troublemakers, sources said.
- Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, is likely to visit the memorial today. He had called a massive bandh across Maharashtra last year after the violence at Koregaon-Bhima on January 1.
- To avoid a repeat of that incident, the police have taken "preventive action" against over 1,200 people. The action includes barring some of them from entering the area, and forcing others to leave the district temporarily, PTI reported quoting a senior police officer.
- Those who have been banned from visiting Koregaon Bhima and the surrounding area, 40 km from Pune, include right-wing leader Milind Ekbote and members of the left-leaning cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM).
- Some members of the KKM are accused in the Elgar Parishad case. According to the police, provocative speeches at the parishad (conclave), funded by Maoists, on December 31, 2017 triggered violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day.
- "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 senior police officer Sandip Patil told reporters on December 29.
- Following the violence on January 1 last year, right wing groups questioned why a British victory against Marathas should be celebrated, and had accused Jignesh Mewani, Dalit leader from Gujarat who was elected to public office, of inciting caste tension.
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