On New Year’s Day, Dalits from across Maharashtra are seen at Perne village near Pune. The small village has the jaystambh (victory pillar) which was erected by the British. The pillar commemorates the memory of the soldiers who fell in that battle.
On December 31, while the world will be celebrating New Years celebrations, thousands of Dalits in Maharashtra’s
Pune will join together to celebrate the commemoration of 200 years of a historical event that Dalits in Maharashtra see as a moment of pride. On the occasion, the newly elected newly elected member of the Gujarat Assembly, Jignesh Mevani has been invited to speak. The MLA from Vadgam has been invited to facilitate the conference. The conference is a part of a massive celebration of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon over the last day of this year and the first of the next.
It was on January 1, 1818, when a small army of the British East India Company overpowered the forces of Peshwa Baji Rao II despite being outnumbered three to one. This “victory” in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon is considered as an important symbol of Dalit assertion in Maharashtra. For Dalits, the forces from East India Company was comprised of the soldiers who were from the Dalit Mahar community. The Dalits waged a war for “freedom” from the castiesm of the Peshwas, who were upper caste Brahmins.
On New Year’s Day, Dalits from across Maharashtra are seen at Perne village near Pune. The small village has the jaystambh (victory pillar) which was erected by the British. The pillar commemorates the memory of the soldiers who fell in that battle. Even Dr B R Ambedkar is believed to have paid a visit to the memorial in 1927.
However, this New Year’s Day on January 1, 2018, is special. This year mark the Bicentennial or the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The scale of the event this time is likely to be unprecedented, some organisers say. They claim between four and five lakh Dalits from across the country are expected to join the Bhima Koregaon Shauryadin Prerna Abhiyan, making it one of the largest Dalit mobilisations of recent times.
Mevani is expected to speak at the “Elgaar Parishad” conference on December 31 at Pune’s historic Shaniwar Wada, the headquarters of the Peshwas. The following day, Mevani, along with thousands of activists, is expected to march 30 km to the jaystambh, the venue for the main event.
Mevani is not the only attraction at the Elgaar Parishad. Also invited to speak at the event are Umar Khalid, the Jawaharlal Nehru University student who was at the centre of the controversial slogan-shouting incident last year, Chhattisgarh activist Soni Sori, and Vinay Ratan Singh, the national president of the Bhim Army.