All you need to know about the violence that marred the Koregaon-Bhima battle anniversary

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 02, 2018 16:58 hrs
Bhima Koregaon anniversary

Mumbai: The usually peacefully celebrations at the Bhima Koregaon village every year to commemorate the battle of 1818, took an unusual violent turn on January 1. The history of 200 years is seen a metaphor of Dalit triumph against the caste-based tyranny during the Peshwa rule.

The violence in Pune on Monday resulted in the death of one and vandalising of several vehicles that were stranded on the Pune highway for hours. Violent reactions were also reported from Aurangabad and other parts of the state. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and the Congress have alleged the role of right-wing organisations in the violence, calling it a pre-meditated attack.

What is the battle of Bhima Koregaon?

The Battle of Bhima Koregaon was fought on January 1, 1818. The army of British East India Company, which had a large contingent of Dalit Mahars, had defeated the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy.

Some Dalit leaders and thinkers view it as a victory of oppressed classes over the upper-caste establishment of those times.

The 28,000-strong Marathas, led by Peshwa Baji Rao II intended to attack Pune. On their way, they were met by an 800-strong Company force that was on its way to reinforce the British troops in Pune.

The Peshwa dispatched around 2,000 soldiers to attack the Company force stationed in Koregaon. Led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops defended their position for nearly 12 hours. The Marathas ultimately withdrew, fearing the arrival of a larger British force led by General Joseph Smith.

The Company troops of Indian origin included predominantly Mahar Dalit soldiers belonging to the Bombay Native Infantry, and therefore Dalit activists regard the battle as a heroic episode in Dalit history.

Every year the community travels to Koregaon Bhima to celebrate the victory over Peshwas. Being the 200th anniversary this year, a larger crowd came down for celebrations on Monday.

However, some right-wing groups in Pune had expressed opposition to celebration of the `British' victory. The protests soon turned violence, including stone-pelting and vandalism. ​Follow live updates on Monday's Bhima-Koregaon clashes

Twenty-eight-year-old Rahul Fatangale died in the violence and three were injured, according to the police. Prvate and public vehicles were torched. The violence also affected traffic on the Pune expessway and rail line crossing through the region.

The police said that the situation was under control.

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