01 January 1818 was the day when Battle of Koregaon on river Bhima took place in the close vicinity of Pune, the spiritual capital of Marathas, fought between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confedracy.
In historical perspective, this Battle, though a minor skirmish, settled the question of Peshwa of no longer being the head of the famed Maratha Confedracy anymore. Bajirao II was forced to retire as a pensioner soon after and put an end to Marathas being any threat to the nascent British Raj. Scindia and Gaikwad became British subservients while Satara was given to Bhonsale.
But, it is not the consequences of this Battle which have played such an important part in independent India but a non event of this Battle fought couple of centuries ago which has inflamed passions in Maharashtra in particular and India in general.
BR Ambedkar, in 1931 visited this place to commemorate a victory in which no stakeholders of then India had any stakes. He came here to ostensibly pay his respects to the dead Mahar soldiers of British Army. An act of sowing seeds of Caste fault lines, not that India needed any supposed Messiah to create it. It was to celebrate the defeat of Peshwa supposedly by Mahars, then an Untouchable in Maharashtra, treated unequal and most deprecatingly by the Upper Caste Marathas and Brahmins of whom Peshwa was the figure head.
Howsoever hard Ambedkar may have tried to make it an issue of Indian social fault line, the facts on ground of the Skirmish at Koregaon on Bhima do not support any of the assertions being on display at Bhima-Koregaon in wake of Ambedkar’s attempt to change the narrative. Last year which saw a massive gathering of Neo Buddhists and Dalits wasn’t spontaneous but an organised affair led by many fronts of Communist parties, Left Liberals, Muslim and radical Dalit organisations.
The resultant violence is being seen as the work of Underground Marxist movement which infiltrated the Dalit organisations leading to an explosive situation. The State has come down hard on these elements but only after these fronts were able to distort the entire narrative, of making it an assertion of Dalit aspirations and rights against the age old tyranny of the Upper Castes in Maharashtra.
The fact that the Maharashtra government failed to appreciate and apprehend the entire event marking the Bicentennial commemoration in its entirety and its ability to create unrest in the State is an oft repeated story around the country.
To come to the facts of the Battle, it was purely a battle between the invading forces of East India Company and the foremost political and military force in post Mughal India, the Marathas led by the Peshwa, the Prime Minister of the Maratha Confedracy.
The details are certainly embarrassing for us as Indians but it is beyond comprehension that how could Ambedkar manufacture anything as astounding as the Battle being a battle between the Marathas and the Mahars. A battle between the Regressive Forces led by the Peshwa and the Ameliorating Forces led by the East India Company
The Battle per se goes like this, Peshwa was rushing to take Pune during the Third Anglo-Maratha War in the last week of Dec 1817, when he was met with an unexpected British reinforcements led by Capt Staunton with a force of some 834 men of various Native Infantry and some English Gunners supported by two six pounder guns.
While the Peshwa had a force of 20000 cavalry and 8000 Infantry, the Marathas employed around 2000 of its soldiers to take Koregaon, which was on a raised ground and overlooking the river Bhima. Most of the attacking forces were the Pathans, Gosains and some Marathas.
Where as, the British Forces were similarly organised of various castes and religious denominations including Muslims, Marathas, Mahars, Rajputs and a few Jews.
It is a remarkable event in British Raj but it has absolutely no connection with Mahar Pride or aspirations. It is basically a concoction by Ambedkar who deliberately misled the Mahars by being economic with the Truth. He manufactured an entire narrative of Dalits vs Marathas based on this inconsequential battle of two opposing parties in their quest for political power.
The Battle became famous as it brought an end to the Third Anglo-Maratha War and forever arrested the threat of Marathas in general and the Peshwa in particular to the British supremacy in India.
It certainly has nothing to do with our Social fault lines as being constructed by this new Narrative that projects the Battle as one. A minor skirmish has been glorified by Ambedkar for reasons unknown except perhaps to create superficial divide. Ambedkar always had a soft corner for the British is well known fact but to interpolate a military victory into the Indians social sub context is seemingly devious.
The Battle resulted in stalemate with the British holding onto Koregaon against a force of Peshwa, who now wanted to move out before more reinforcements could reach Pune and make his presence untenable militarily. Peshwa lost about 500-600 men mostly Pathans and Caste Marathas (British estimates), while East India Company lost 254 men out of which only 50 were Infantrymen. Native troops were employed only as Infantry in pre 1857 India by the British.
Out of these 50, only 22 were Mahars identified by their names ending in Nak. The others included Muslims, Marathas, Rajputs and even a couple of Jews. It was disingenuous of Ambedkar to have created an event out of a Battle where Mahars had no stake but only served their British masters.
Bhima-Koregaon issues in the present scenario is an attempt by vested interests including some political parties, NGOs, Civil and Public rights activists to stir the Caste Cauldron in view of the impending General Elections in 2019. The narrative is being created in a conspiracy to divide the Hindu society into castes especially since the 2014 elections threw up interesting statistics where BJP under Narendra Modi was the first choice of the Dalits in the Hindi heartland, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Historically, Ambedkar’s attempt at glorifying Koregaon smacked of similar attempts in wake of the impending Second Round Table Conference to be held in England on issues of India. Ambedkar along with Jinnah were invited to the Second Round Table Conference while British refused to consider Congress as the sole representative of India or Hindus.
Even today, the issue has been raised with similar aims to derail the BJP and Modi Bandwagon, while Ambedkar’s aversion to Islam and Muslims was an important factor in his choosing Buddhism as his vehicle of conversion is well known, the present forces are playing the Breaking India games with Muslims being the protagonists in this entire build up of Bhima-Koregaon false narrative.
The state must investigate and bring to law the conspirators of this insidious design of Breaking India by various forces both external and internal.