The district police yesterday arrested 12 more people, including three minors, in connection with the January 1 caste clashes that broke out in and around Koregaon Bhima village in which one person was killed. Police had earlier arrested 17 people in connection with the incident. The violence occurred during the bicentennial event to commemorate the Koregaon-Bhima battle in which British imperial forces comprising Dalits had defeated the army of Peshwas. Dalits view the historic battle as the defeat of “casteist” Peshwas who had represented the Maratha empire. On January 1, several vehicles, shops, houses were vandalised and torched by mobs in areas near Koregaon Bhima. Lakhs of Dalits visit the Koregaon Ranstambh (victory pillar) every year to commemorate the Koregaon Bhima battle. “On Monday, we arrested 12 people, including three minors, for allegedly vandalising vehicles on road in villages adjoining Koregaon Bhima,” said Pune district SP Suvez Haque. He said the arrested people belonged to both the communities (Maratha and Dalit).
Haque said the police traced the vandals through CCTV footages and video recordings of the January 1 incidents. “Police are analysing CCTV footages and recordings available to identify the anti-social elements involved in the violence,” he said. During the violence, one Rahul Phatangale was killed near Sanaswadi. Shikrapur police station senior inspector Ramesh Galande today said that the investigation was on the right track in Phatangale case.
Police yesterday booked six members of the Kabir Kala Manch, a radical cultural group, for making “provocative” remarks during the Elgaar parishad (conference) held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, a day ahead of the Koregaon Bhima violence. The conference was attended by Dalit MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mevani, JNU student leader Umar Khalid, (late) Rohit Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula, and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar. Shaniwarwada, a historical fortification in the city, had remained the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire until 1818.
The police already booked Mevani and Khalid for making “provocative” speeches and creating a rift between two communities. The Pune Rural Police had registered an FIR against right-wing leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’ under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and under various sections of the IPC including attempt to murder in connection with the caste clashes. In the wake of the incident, various Dalit organisations observed a statewide bandh on January 3 which took a violent turn.