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Maha: Thousands visit 'Jaystambh' monument to mark 204th anniversary of Koregaon-Bhima battle

In contrast to the 203rd anniversary of the historical battle last year, which was a low-key affair due to pandemic curbs, many people have paid their tributes at the Jaystambh, which, as per a Dalit narrative is the symbol of the victory over casteism.

Visitors arrive at the 201st Anniversary of Koregaon Bhima Victory Pillar at Bhima Koregaon Village near Pune city. | PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist

Undeterred by the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the pandemic-related restrictions, thousands of people paid tributes at the Jaystambh military monument in Pune district of Maharashtra on Saturday morning to mark the 204th anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle amid tight security.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, state home minister Dilip Walse Patil, social welfare minister Dhananjay Munde also visited Jaystambh, located near Perne village, this morning. As per the Dalit narrative, the British forces that fought the Peshwas at Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 1818, comprised largely of soldiers from the Dalit Mahar community, who waged a "war for freedom" from 'casteism' of the Peshwas.

On January 1 every year, lakhs of people, mainly from the Dalit community, visit the Jaystambh, which was erected by the British in memory of the soldiers who fought against the Peshwas in the Battle of Koregaon Bhima. Violence had broken out near Koregaon Bhima village during the 200th commemoration of the historical battle on January 1, 2018. According to police, "provocative" speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune city a day before had triggered the violence.

A senior police officer said on Saturday that the district administration had appealed to people above 60 and children below 10 years to avoid coming to Jaystambh in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Police personnel are deployed in large numbers near the war memorial. Facilities like COVID testing etc are in place, the officer said.

As per the order issued by the Pune district administration under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), putting up hoardings or banners in the villages around the memorial, posting content that can spread rumours, create hatred in communities, posting misleading information on social media platforms, has been prohibited.

The order came into effect from midnight of December 30 and will remain in force till 6 am on January 2.

With inputs from PTI.

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