A year after clashes, security beefed up at Koregaon Bhima to avoid rerun

Pune: Thousands of people have visited the ‘Jay Stambh’, a war memorial, in Maharashtra’s Koregaon Bhima village on January 1 to mark the 201st anniversary of the 1818 battle between the British and the Peshwas. The administration has stepped up security to avoid the repeat of last year’s violence that broke out between Dalits and right-wing groups and marred the bicentennial celebration.

According to reports, at least 20,000 police personnel, including 5,000 police personnel, 1,200 Home Guards and 12 companies of the Rapid Action Force and the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have been deployed in and around the war memorial.

Besides large-scale police deployment, 500 CCTV cameras, 11 drone cameras and 40 video cameras have also been put in place to monitor the area.

Maharashtra police has also denied permission to a number of religious leaders and groups for visiting the village and externed 64 people and booked 1,211 people under preventive action.

Those who have been prohibited from visiting Koregaon Bhima and the surrounding area, 40 km from Pune, include right-wing Hindu leader Milind Ekbote and members of the left-leaning cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM).

According to District collector Ram, seven to ten lakh people are expected to visit the war memorial today.

On Monday, Dalit leader and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad reiterated his plan to visit the victory pillar even if the government uses force to deter him.

Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, also visited the memorial today.

Amidst heavy security, an event was organised at midnight to commemorate 201 years of the battle. Thousands of visitors paid their tribute at the memorial and a special ‘puja’ was also organised during the night.

Dalits, who look upon the defeat of Peshwa’s army as a symbol of their emancipation, visit the Jay Stambh (victory pillar) at the site on January 1 every year.

However, clashes broke out on January 1, 2018, when Dalits visited Koregaon Bhima with right-wing organisations opposing the celebration of the British victory on its bicentennial anniversary last time.

One person lost life in the violence.

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