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The Bhima Koregaon case dates back to January 1, 2018, the day of the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima Koregaon battle. The celebration was marred by violence leading to death of one person and injuries to several others.
Police investigation into the incident led to the arrest of several activists who they alleged had "Maoist links". The police alleged that they funded the Elgar Parishad meeting on December 31, 2017, where inflammatory speeches were made, according to police, leading to the violence. Those arrested on August 28, 2019, included writer and poet Varavara Rao, lawyer and activist Sudha Bhardwaj, academic and activist Vernon Gonsalves, and human rights activists Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha.
What is Bhima-Koregaon?
A small village in Pune district of Maharashtra, Bhima-Koregaon is associated with an important phase of Maratha history. On January 1, 1818, a Dalit-dominated British Army had defeated a Peshwa army, led by Peshwa Bajirao II, in Koregaon.
The battle attained a legendary stature for Dalits, who consider the win as a victory of the Mahars against the injustices perpetuated by the Peshwas.
A pillar, known as Vijay Sthamb (victory pillar), was installed by the East India Company in memory of those who fought for them in the battle. It is at this pillar that thousands of Dalits come to pay respect every year on January 1.
What happened at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018?
2018 marked the 200th year of battle and hence there was a larger gathering at Bhima Koregaon as compared to previous years. During the celebrations there were violent clashes between Dalit and Maratha groups, resulting in the death of at least one person and injuries to several others.
Tensions had started simmering on December 29, 2017, the day Govind Gopal Mahar's memorial was found desecrated. The incident found mention in the Elgar Parishad, a big public conference organised by Dalit and Bahujan groups on December 31, 2017. Police has alleged that inflammatory speeches were made in the event and that led to the violence next day.
According to reports, violence erupted when some groups carrying saffron flags entered the scene.