Bhima Koregaon Violence: What was the 'Battle of Koregaon'?
On the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune,
Dalit groups blocked the Eastern Express Highway in Mumbai today after yesterday's violence during the event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune. Traffic came to a standstill on the highway. Dalits hit the streets in parts of Mumbai today to protest against the violence that took place 148 km away in Pune yesterday. In pockets of the financial capital, the police donned riot gear as incidents of stone-pelting were reported. Traffic was hit on the Eastern Express Highway near Mumbai, train services were affected.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has warned people not to spread rumours on social media. He has also ordered a judicial inquiry into Monday's clash, in which a man had died.
But what's the history behind 'The Battle of Koregaon'?
The Battle of Koregaon was fought on January 1, 1818, between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy, at Koregaon Bhima.
The 28,000-strong Marathas, led by Peshwa Baji Rao II intended to attack Pune. On their way, they were met by an 800-strong Company force that was on its way to reinforce the British troops in Pune. The Peshwa dispatched around 2,000 soldiers to attack the Company force stationed in Koregaon. Led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops defended their position for nearly 12 hours. The Marathas ultimately withdrew, fearing the arrival of a larger British force led by General Joseph Smith.
The Company troops of Indian origin included predominantly Mahar Dalit soldiers belonging to the Bombay Native Infantry, and therefore Dalit activists regard the battle as a heroic episode in Dalit history.