Over 1 lakh pay tribute at Victory Memorial at Perne

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Nilesh Bhagat, said, “Politicians should not use this place for their politics. Last year’s incident happened due to over enthusiasm of some people. People come here to pay tribute to the heroic deed of our community members.”

PUNE: Against the backdrop of caste clashes which were reported at Koregaon-Bhima on January 1, 2018, more than one lakh people turned up to pay tribute at the Victory Memorial near Perne Village to commemorate the 201st anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon-Bhima. Expecting a huge turnout of people, mainly Dalits, the district administration had maintained a heavy bandobast on the 30 km route from Wagholi to Koregaon-Bhima. 

The district administration had made arrangements of vehicles for people to visit Koregoan-Bhima. On the demand of city administration, PMPML had provided a total of 229 buses. Despite this, people preferred to use their private vehicles. People from different parts of the State such as Nagpur, Amravati, Akola, Raigad, Mumbai, Kolhapur and even Karanataka had come to pay their tribute to the memorial. 

The area was full of private vehicles. Most of the vehicles were arranged by different Dalit political factions. From Yerawada to Wagholi, different local Dalit leaders were welcoming people who were going to visit Koregaon-Bhima. Most of the families visited Koregaon-Bhima. The huge traffic jam was experienced on Nagar Road and Lonikand area. Most of the people parked their vehicles along the route which resulted in a huge traffic jam. Due to the jam, many people chose to walk after parking their vehicles at a spot 7 km before Koregaon-Bhima. Many walked up to the memorial along with their family members.  

Amit Kamble, a youth from Pimpri-Chinchwad, said, “I am visting Koregaon-Bhima for the first time. Earlier, I had heard about it but due to last year’s incident, I decided to visit the place. I am inspired by the huge turnout of people who came here to pay tribute to the war heroes.

Nilesh Bhagat, said, “Politicians should not use this place for their politics. Last year’s incident happened due to over enthusiasm of some people. People come here to pay tribute to the heroic deed of our community members.”

Ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, most of the Dalit political party leaders visited Koregaon-Bhima memorial to show their strength.  

Republican Party of India (RPI) leader and Social Welfare Minister of State Ramdas Athawale, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar, President of people’s Republican Party leader Jogendra Kawade and Republican Sena leader Anandraj Ambedkar visited the memorial and paid their tribute. 

While the Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar visited the Victory Pillar quietly in the wee hours, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh President Prakash Ambedkar received a rousing welcome when he arrived at the pillar at around 7 am.

Ambedkar appreciated the arrangements made by the district administration and appealed to the people to visit the place peacefully and to cooperate with the administration. While speaking to media, he said, “This level of police deployment was not at all necessary. The local villagers had already agreed to welcome the visitors and when there was no atmosphere of tension, the heavy police presence created fear among the visitors.”

He also slammed the government over its action after last year’s riots. He said, “There were some youths who were reaching out to people to tell them the real history of the Koregaon-Bhima battle through events like Elgaar Parishad and bridge the gap between two communities but the government branded them as Naxals.”

The RPI had organised the rally. However, Ramdas Athawale reached the spot at 6 pm due to the traffic jam. Athawale paid his tribute and spoke to media. He said, “I thank Ambedkarites and the Maratha community for maintaining peace. They showed solidarity.” He appealed to the government to increase the funds to develop Koregaon-Bhima memorial. “The State government should give additional Rs 100 crore for the development of Koregaon-Bhima memorial,” he added. 

He also gave assurance that the Central government will provide full support to the State government for the developement of the area. 

Kawade also addressed rally and appealed people to establish peace in the region. Following Prakash Ambedkar, his cousin Anandraj Ambedkar also visited the Victory Pillar. Apart from the politicians, the mother and brother of Rohit Vemula and Shrimant Kokate from Maratha Mahasangh also visited the pillar and paid tribute.

Pune: District Collector Naval Kishore Ram and Superintendent of Pune Rural Police Sandip Patil thanked all people and locals of Koregaon-Bhima for extending their cooperation and making the event a successful one. Collector Ram said that all government departments were working day and night for last two months. “The whole event was peaceful,” he added. Around 7,000 police officials were deployed to maintain law and order in the area. Similarly, the police had taken preventive actions against several miscreants to make the event peaceful.

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