Pune: We don't want any more tension, say Koregaon Bhima villagers
Administration deploys full might as 23 Dalit organisations seek permission to host events commemorating battle anniversary
Nearly a year after the violent clash at Koregaon Bhima, the villagers and local administration are making all efforts to ensure there is no such disruption this time round. The turmoil has started early this year. Usually, not more than two stage areas are permitted to be set up to celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Koregaon Bhima.
It is ironic that an event commemorating a historic Dalit victory has now divided the community. Yuvraj Bansode, Republican Sena's Maharashtra president, said, "We want everyone to come together and do it, but none of the other political and social organisations want this. We have sent the police three applications, along with reminders, but they are yet to give us permission."
The Vijay stambha (victory pillar), which commemorates the Battle of Koregaon Bhima, falls under the jurisidiction of two police stations — Lonikhand and Shikrapur — and both have received multiple applications. None have received approval yet. "The SP and Collector will take a call on it. We plan to barricade a 100-metre radius around the war memorial, where no stage can be set up," said Pratap Mankar, senior inspector of Lonikhand police.
Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr B R Ambedkar and leader of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, said, "Why is there need of any permission for the event? I will come as I have done for more than three decades, and I never took permission then. It is my right."
Parshuram Wadekar of RPI (A) said, "We want to cooperate with the police and are ready to build our stage 500 metres away from the memorial. But we have still not got any confirmation." Sarjeraobhau Waghmare, chief of the Koregaon Bhima Vijay Ranastambh Seva Sangh, said, "Many political and social organisations will try to come and take credit, but we do not want any more tension. These organisations come for a day, but ruin our life."
This will be the first public gathering at Koregaon Bhima after violent clashes erupted during the 200th anniversary celebrations on January 1 this year, resulting in the death of a youth in Pune. This time, more than eight lakh people are expected to visit between December 31 and January 1, 2019. The police already deployed security at the memorial 10 days ago.
Pune District Collector Naval Kumare Ram and Pune (Rural) Superintendent of Police Sandip Patil have held several meetings with villagers to prevent any chaos. On Monday, Maharashtra Chief Secretary D K Jain also held a meeting via video conference to discuss the event with the district administration.
SP Sandeep Patil said, "We have deployed heavy police bandobast here and in adjacent areas. We will also take preventive measures against suspicious people who could create mischief. The Ahmednagar road will be diverted. To avoid any scarcity of water and food, stalls are being set up near the parking area." Guardian Minister Girish Bapat said, "We have held more than 250 meetings with local residents to ensure smooth operations."
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