One of the last battles of the Third Anglo-Maratha War was fought by around 500 Mahar (untouchable) warriors as part of the British Army against 28,000 princely Maratha troops.
Traditionally called untouchables and now Dalits, or the socially deprived class, they celebrated the 202nd anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Koregaon. People in large numbers gathered at Bhima Koregaon village in the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday to commemorate the victory in the battle.
Police made the necessary security arrangements near Jaystambh (war memorial) in the western Pune district for the gathering, which was expected to number in the tens of thousands.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who headed a panel to write the Indian Constitution after the country won freedom from British colonial rule, visited the Jaystambh in 1927. Since Dr Ambedkar is now considered an icon of the socially deprived, the site has become crucial for his followers.
The deputy chief of the western state of Mahrashtra, Ajit Pawar, and Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Ambedkar and who now heads a political outfit of the followers of his grandfather, paid tribute at the war memorial on Wednesday.
भीमा कोरेगावच्या ऐतिहासिक लढाई शहीद झालेल्या शूरवीरांना विनम्र अभिवादन..💐— Prakash Ambedkar (@Prksh_Ambedkar) January 1, 2020
आज सकाळी विजयस्तंभास जाऊन मानवंदना दिली. pic.twitter.com/qe5DQtwNFF
Followers of Dr Ambedkar, known as Ambedkarites, marked the day on social media, sharing their views on the relevance of the day.
Activist and senior journalist Dilip Mandal wrote: “The Mahars thought it as an opportunity for social revolution - nothing to lose but self-respect, equality and prestige to gain. From this point of view it should be considered a unique war”.
महारों ने इसे सामाजिक क्रांति के अवसर के रूप में लड़ा – खोने के लिए कुछ नहीं, लेकिन पाने के लिए आत्म-सम्मान, बराबरी और प्रतिष्ठा. इस दृष्टिकोण से इसे अनोखा युद्ध समझा जाना चाहिए!#भीमाकोरेगांव_शौर्यदिवस https://t.co/CBUIiWrdjt— Prof. Dilip Mandal (@Profdilipmandal) January 1, 2020
Remembering the valor of brave Dalit soldiers during the battle of Bhima-Koregaon.— Dalit Congress (@INCSCDept) January 1, 2020
The Battle of #BhimaKoregaon took place 202 Years ago on Jan 1st 1818, at the bank of the river Bhima. It continues to inspire us in fight against injustice, inequalities and atrocities. pic.twitter.com/QKVmmfcRMV
The glorious victory of few hundred untouchable soldiers over numerically superior Peshwas army in the battle of Koregaon, fought on 1st January, 1818, is one such chapter in Indian history whose significance has been carefully hidden. #भीमाकोरेगांव_शौर्यदिवस— Hansraj Meena (@ihansraj) January 1, 2020
An Ambedkarite outfit has written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the Jaystambh commemorating the 1818 battle of Bhima-Koregaon a national memorial.
In 2018, violence erupted during the 200th anniversary celebration, when people with saffron flags entered the crowd. One person died and many others sustained injuries during the violence.