Britishers were better rulers than the Peshwas, says organisers of 'Elgar Parishad' commemorating 200th anniversary of Koregaon-Bhima battle at Shaniwarwada

Prateek Goyal
Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Koregaon-Bhima battle
Captain Francis Staunton was leading the British forces at the battle of Koregaon-Bhima. Lieutenant Wyllie, who was an assistant surgeon, was also a part of the British forces who fought at Koregaon. Britishers assigned the job of administering the Koregaon-Bhima memorial to Maloji Khandoji Malwatkar, a Maratha soldier of the British army. He was also awarded 60 acres of land by Britishers.

Pune: The event to mark the 200th anniversary of the historical battle of Bhima Koregaon which took place on January 1, 1818, in which British army defeated Peshwa-led Maratha forces, may create a political storm as the organisers believe that the Britishers were better rulers than Peshwas. 

Various organisations have come together under the banner of ‘Elgar Parishad’ to observe the event at Shaniwarwada. The event will be attended by various activists across the country.

The organisers commemorating the event are considering it as an inspiration to fight against the fascists forces whereas descendant of Peshwas, Udaysingh Peshwe has opposed it and claimed it as the mockery of Bajirao Peshwa and others who sacrificed their lives for the nation. 

Jyoti Jagtap, a representative of Bhima Koregaon Shauryadin Prerna Abhiyan, which is organising the event, said, “We are celebrating it as the victory over Manuwadi forces of Peshwas who have exploited people by their casteist ways. The victory in this battle of 734 soldiers comprised Mahars, Marathas, Muslims and Rajputs against 28,000 strong Peshwa army. It is an inspiration to our generation that by coming together, we can defeat the fascist forces ruling the country.” 

When questioned, Jagtap said that she feels Britishers were better than Peshwas and the freedom fighters who fought against British, She said, “Britishers never promoted casteism and we think that British rule was better than the rules of Peshwas.”

“Descendants of Peshwas should accept that their ancestors have committed atrocities on people. Peshwas have not ruled as per the principles of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and have taken us 1,000 years back,” added Jagtap 

Udaysingh Peshwe said, “The celebration at Shaniwarwada is just a political stunt and an event to humiliate our ancestors. That battle was between English and Marathas. It was not between Brahmins and Dalits. The Maratha army led by Peshwa had all kinds of people including Mahars, Marathas, Muslims and others.”

Udaysingh further commented, “We have appealed to the government to not give permission to conduct the event at Shaniwarwada. But if the government grants them permission, then we are just helpless.” 

British did not win Koregaon Bhima battle 
Although, it is widely considered by many that British-led forces comprising Mahars, Marathas defeated Peshwa Army, historian Pandurang Balkawde has a different story to offer. Balkawde told Sakal Times that Marathas defeated Britishers in the battle of Koregaon-Bhima on January 1, 1818, and this was written in records by none other than three Britishers. 

He said, “The Maratha army of around 20,000 soldiers was camping on the banks of Bhima river. Bajirao-II and Chatrapati Pratap Singh were also present there. A British army of around 1,000 soldierscoming from Shirur towards Pune observed Maratha Army camping at the other end of the river from the spot near Talegaon Dhamdere. Seeing the Maratha army, the Britishers moved towards Koregaon and stationed themselves there. Around 3,000 infantry guards of Maratha army were sent to fight with them. The battle took place and the soldiers of British army comprising English, Mahars, Marathas and Muslims lost the battle. The British army retreated to Shirur after spending two days in Koregaon without food and water.”

Balkawade informed that Capt Francise Staunton, Doctor  Wyllie and Brigadier General Joseph Smith themselves had written about this in records that the British forces had lost the battle. 
Balkawde said, “By 1822, British overtook the Martha Empire and decided to build memorials at all places where they were defeated and projected as they had won the battles. The then Governor of Bombay, Mountstuart Elphinstone, was the man behind building memorials at the places where Britishers lost to project it as their victory. Marathas definitely lost the battle of Khadki and Yerwada but the battle of Koregaon-Bhima was won by them.”

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