1 dead, many injured after riots erupt at Koregaon-Bhima

ST Correspondent
Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The riots erupted on the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle on Monday. Around 30 to 40 vehicles were damaged by stone pelters, whereas a few vehicles, including a fire brigade vehicle, were torched by rioters.

PUNE: Two groups clashed with each other on caste lines in the adjoining areas of Koregaon-Bhima, Sanaswadi, Kondhapuri and Shikrapur on Pune–Ahmednagar Road. One person was reported dead, whereas several others were injured, including a few police officials.

DGP Satish Mathur told Sakal Times, “About 30-40 vehicles were damaged and incidents of violence were reported at several places. Police had to use teargas and lathicharge to control the situation. Several people were injured.”

The riots erupted on the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle on Monday. Around 30 to 40 vehicles were damaged by stone pelters, whereas a few vehicles, including a fire brigade vehicle, were torched by rioters.

The deceased was identified as Rahul Fatangede (28), who received fatal injuries in the riots at Sanaswadi. One person was admitted to the ICU of Imax multispecialty hospital at Wagholi and was identified as Vishal Jadhav (23), a resident of Ranjangaon.

According to the police and local villagers, on Monday morning, people from two groups gathered to pay their respects at the memorial of Sambhaji Maharaj, the son of Shivaji Maharaj, at Vadhu Budruk in Shirur taluka of Pune district. Both groups raised slogans. However, Vadhu villagers asked them to leave.

Later, Pune rural SP Suvez Haque reached the spot and pacified them and held a meeting with the villagers. At Bhima Koregaon, located on the Ahmednagar highway, about 4 km from Vadhu Budruk, the two groups raised slogans and violence began at around 11.30 am. It spread to Vadhu road, Sanaswadi, Kondhapuri and Shikrapur. The rioters set vehicles on fire, damaged shops and indulged in stone pelting. 

It is significant to note that a few days back, an FIR was registered against 49 persons after the memorial of Govind Gopal Mahar (Gaikwad), the Dalit farmer who had made arrangements for the last rites of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, along with other villagers, was damaged at Vadhu Budruk.

The police were outnumbered and the violence went on for about three hours, before police resorted to lathi charge and fired teargas shells to control the situation at around 3 pm. It was then that the highway could be opened for traffic movement. Vehicles of police and Minister Dilip Kamble were also damaged. 

Later, reinforcements from State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) were rushed to the site, while the district administration imposed restrictions on assembly of people under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Senior police officials are camping in the area.

In Shikrapur, shops were shut down forcefully by the miscreants. Stone pelters damaged two Bhima Koregaon-bound buses coming from Aurangabad, at Maltan Phata. 

Police Inspector Ramesh Galande of Shikrapur police station said, “After the argument between the two groups at Vadhu Budruk, the riots initially erupted at Perne Phata and then spread to the areas of Sanaswadi, Kondhapuri and Shikrapur. Rioters from both sides pelted stones at each other. Miscreants pelted stones at the vehicles coming towards Bhima Koregaon.”

“Vehicles were vandalised in large numbers and many people have been reported injured, however, there is no official data on the count yet,” added Galande. 

Arun Tolgote, a visitor, who arrived from Akola, said, “People came to pay tribute at the memorial in large numbers. However, after 10.30 am, stone pelting started near Perne Phata. Miscreants were pelting stones at cars. Many visitors headed towards Pune after the situation got worse.”

After giving fiery speeches on the event of Elgar Parishad held at Shaniwardwada on Sunday to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Koregaon-Bhima battle, none of the speakers including Jignesh Mewani, Radhika Vemula, Umar Khalid, Vinay Ratan Singh, Soni Sori and Prashant Dontha  visited the Koregaon-Bhima memorial on Monday. According to the Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan, Mewani, Vemula, Singh, Sori  and Dontha visited the memorial on Sunday night. Khalid, who gave a fiery speech on taking inspiration from Koregaon-Bhima battle to fight “modern day Peshwa rule of RSS and BJP” didn’t pay any visit to the memorial on both the days. Mewani and Khalid were in the city on Monday and reportedly attended a political meeting.

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