Several Right wing outfits have opposed an event to commemorate 200th anniversary of the victory of Dalit soldiers over Peshwas in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.
In the battle fought on January 1, 1818, 800 soldiers, most of them from the Dalit Mahar community, fought against almost 2,000 soldiers of the Peshwas and eventually forced them to retreat.
In Dalit narrative, this was a war for “freedom” from alleged caste hierarchy practised by the Peshwas, who were Brahmins.
The event that will be held on December 31 at the fort of Shaniwar Wada in Pune will see the particpation of Radhika Vemula, the mother of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, newly elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mewani, Umar Khalid, activist Soni Sori among others.
Thousands of Dalits, Muslims, Christians and Bahujans from over 200 organisations across the state are expected to attend the event.
A pamphlet for the conference, according to Indian Express, makes appeal to the masses- mainly people from Dalit, tribal and minority communities, to unite and take inspiration from the heroes of the Bhima Koregaon battle, and defeat the ‘new Peshwas’-the BJP, the RSS and other “Hindutva” forces.
Calling the event anti-national, the Pune Nagar Hindu Sabha said it was unconstitutional to compare a democratically-elected government to the Peshwas.
The Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasangh and Udaysinh Peshwa, a descendant of the Peshwas, have also taken objection to the event and have urged the police to prohibit it as the event will sharpen caste divisions.
Speaking to The Wire, Anand Dave, the president of Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasabha said, “We need to understand that the British in their effort to gain control of India had started to wage wars against kings in all states including Maharashtra. They fought against the Peshwas who were heading the Maratha state to win the Maratha empire.”
“The British Army had people from all castes including Mahar, Maratha and even Brahmins. And the Peshwa army too had people from all castes including Maratha and Mahar. This was a war was between the British and Indian rulers and not between Mahar and Peshwa as is being told. So what are they celebrating? Victory of British over the Marathas?” he questioned.
However, Jyoti Jagtap, a member of the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan and organiser of the event said they have the required permission to hold the event.
“We have received permission from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to hold the programme and the Shaniwar Wada police has also given its nod for organising it. The commemoration is a call to all Indians to rise against the rising Peshwai, meaning the forces that are promoting hatred and violence on the lines of castes,” he said.