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Sambhaji Brigade is a political organisation based in Maharashtra, India. The organisation is named after king Sambhaji, son of the first Maratha king Shivaji and gained exposure after they attacked and vandalised the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune in protest against American scholar James Laine’s book on Shivaji titled Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India. Currently the head of this organisation is Pravin Gaikwad. Sambhaji Brigade demands reservation for the Maratha community and wants inclusion of Marathas in Other Backward Caste (OBC) category. They also demand free education for Maratha children and registered marriages instead of religious ceremonies. Organization has been criticized for their extremist anti-Brahmin views.
Purushottam Khedekar is one of the founder of this organisation. He is also prominent in the Maratha Seva Sangh, a related organisation and co-founder of Shivdharma. Khedekar has written many anti-Brahmin books like Bhatta Cha Kardhankal (this book was written for termination of Brahmins) and Maharaj Mala Maaf Kara (Translates as" Your Majesty, I ask for your forgiveness". This book abused 17th century Marathi Hindu saint Samarth Ramdas). The police had issued an arrest warrant against Khedekar for inciting anti-Brahmin feeling and causing caste discrimination.
Sambhaji Brigade is known for aggressive agitations. Their first violent protest was an attack on Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. This was followed by uprooting of Dadoji Kondev's Statue from Lal Mahal, then by attacks on Waghya dog's statue on Raigarh fort and then by attacks on R. R. Patil.
2004 James Laine incident
A group of brigade members attacked and vandalised the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute(BORI) in January 2004. The attack was prompted by the controversy over James Laine's controversial book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India (OUP, 2003); scholars from the institute had collaborated with Laine on information by for his the book about the founder of the Maratha Empire, Shivaji, which the group had viewed as blasphemy claiming that book features "derogatory remarks on Shivaji and his mother". Angry mob of Sambhaji Brigade stormed the BORI and destroyed priceless manuscripts and artifacts. Then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee condemned this violence though he upheld the importance of disagreement and debate in a democracy. After the incident 72 members of the group were arrested. In 2004 the director-general of police announced that a legal ban on the organization was being investigated, but as of 2015, organization has never been banned.
Statue of Dadoji Konddev
In 2010, NCP-controlled Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) decision to remove the statue of Dadoji Konddev Kulkarni was claimed to be consistent with the party’s policy to encourage demands of hardline Maratha groups. It is claimed that such a stance had helped the NCP maintain its dominance among the Maratha youth in Pune and rural Maharashtra. Sambhaji Brigade was also involved in a protest to remove the statue of Dadoji Konddev from Lal Mahal in Pune claiming that he was just introduced as teacher of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj by Brahmin historians. About 30 to 40 people entered Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and attacked Mayor's office. This led to a state wide protest by Political parties such as BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS. Following to this Government of Maharashtra (which included NCP) removed name of Dadoji Konddev from school history books stating that Government's committee of historians found no evidence that Dadoji Konddev was teacher of Shivaji.
Attack on Waghya's Statue on Raigarh Fort
The group was also responsible for a protest and attack against a dog's (Waghya) statue located on Raigad Fort next to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's memorial. According to legend the dog (named Waghya) was Shivaji's dog. The group claimed that the dog was not real and there shouldn't be a memorial for it. This act was strongly opposed by local Dhangar community for they believe that the dog was real. In fact many people say that Waghya was Chhatrapati Shivaji's dog and the reason for why the memorial was constructed over there.
Sambhaji Brigade advocates creation of a new religion, different from established Hinduism, called Shivdharma with Shivaji, who himself was a Hindu but a said Mulnivasi, as its central figure. Purushottam Khedekar and Pravin Gaekwad are one of the prominent leaders of this New Religious Movement. This religion will be have all benefits of Indian cast system such as reservation, discount in fees for colleges etc. But this also means that Marathas will be included in Other Backward Cast (OBC). Maratha community today has status of warrior cast which is a higher cast. Due to formation of Shivdharma Maratha status will be relegated. Lots of Marathas have opposed this movement due to this reason.
Statue of Waghya, the pet dog of Shivaji
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