Shaniwarwada Elgar Parishad

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The Elgaar Parishad was an event held on 31 December 2017 to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima. It was organised by a coalition of 260 non-profit organisations at Pune's Shaniwarwada Fort,[1] and had approximately 35,000 people in attendance. The program consisted of a number of cultural performances, speeches and slogans.[2]

"Elgaar" means loud invitation or loud declaration.[3]

Background[edit]

The event was organised at the Shaniwarwada Fort in Pune on the eve of the bicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The Shaniwarwada Fort was the seat of power of the Peshwas, the de facto rulers of the Maratha Empire. The Peshwas belonged to the Brahmin community. Under the Peshwas, the caste system was practiced rigidly, and oppression of the lower castes was severe[citation needed]. In the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, a regiment of Mahar Dalits under the British Army had defeated the Peshwa's army. This victory is very important to Dalits, who see it as a victory over their oppressors. Organising the Parishad at the Shaniwarwada Fort was thus seen as a symbol of Dalit assertion. However Anand Teltumbde has argued that painting the Battle of Bhima Koregaon as the battle of Mahars against their caste oppression in Peshwa rule, is a "pure myth".[4] He states that the majority of those died in the battle (27 out of 49) were not Mahars, and the Peshwa army retreated, fearing the arrival of a larger British force. Thus he regards portrayal of the battle as Mahars’ against the Peshwas’ Brahmanic rule as misleading.

Before the event, two marches were organised through several districts of Maharashtra and culminating in Pune with artists, activists, theatre performers and musicians among others. These marches held public meetings to rally support for Dalit victims of atrocities and collect donations for the Elgar Parishad.[2]

Event[edit]

The event began at 2 PM under six tents pitched in front of the Shaniwarwada Fort. After the tents filled up at 2.30, police refused to let more people in, fearing stampede. The stage seated the organisers and speakers of the event, including Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, Dalit activist Radhika Vemula, Adivasi activist Soni Sori, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, Bhim Army President Vinay Ratan Singh, retired Bombay High Court Justice BG Kholse-Patil, and student leader Umar Khalid.[2]

A number of cultural performances with anti-caste themes were staged. Shahirs performed songs in tribute of Tukaram, Jotirao Phule, Shivaji and Shahu. A dance troupe performed acrobatics and hip-hop groups also performed. Before Radhika Vemula made her speech, she was invited to smash a stack of pots signifying the varna system in a symbolic gesture of annihilating caste. Vadgam MLA and anti-caste activist, Jignesh Mevani read out an extract from Narendra Modi's book, Karmyog, which said that the work of cleaning excreta, a task mostly performed by Dalits due to caste compulsions, is an experience in spirituality. He later had an FIR filed against him.[2]

Aftermath[edit]

On 1 January 2018, violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon, where lakhs of Dalits had converged to commemorate the battle.[1] One person was killed, and three others injured.[5]

In the months following the event, a number of people present at the event were arrested under laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). This included Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Shoma Sen. Pune Police alleged that the event was sponsored by Maoists.[6] An FIR was filed against Jignesh Mevani for promoting enmity on grounds of religion.[2]

It was alleged by the Pune Police that the event was organised by members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). They said that it instigated violence at Bhima Koregaon. However, Justices BG Kolse-Patil and PB Sawant refuted their claims. The Justices said that it was the two of them who were the main organisers and sole funders of the event, and that they had held a similar event against communalism and Hindutva in October 2015 at the same venue.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Johari, Aarefa. "A poet, a lawyer, a professor: These are the five activists held for sparking Bhima Koregaon clashes". Scroll.in. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  2. ^ a b c d e Satheesh, Shone. "Flashback: Vibrant scenes from Pune's Elgaar Parishad, which led to the Bhima Koregaon case arrests". Scroll.in. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  3. ^ a b Johari, Aarefa. "'They want fascist forces to reign': Retired judges who organised Pune's Elgaar Parishad speak out". Scroll.in. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  4. ^ The Myth of Bhima Koregaon Reinforces the Identities It Seeks to Transcend, Anand Teltumbde, The Wire, 02/JAN/2018
  5. ^ "One Killed in Clashes at Bhima Koregaon Battle Anniversary Event in Pune; Situation Tense in Maharashtra". The Wire. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  6. ^ Staff, Scroll. "Bhima Koregaon violence: Activist Rona Wilson and lawyer Surendra Gadling among five arrested". Scroll.in. Retrieved 2018-08-29.