Celebrating Bhima Koregaon is unpatriotic? So why not other British victories in India too
The Battle of Saragarhi is commemorated with a holiday in Punjab and the British Indian Army’s role in World War I is widely celebrated.
Is celebrating a British victory over an Indian kingdom unpatriotic?
It is, or so appears to have been the motivation, partly at least, behind the attack on Dalits by saffron flag-waving mobs in Bhima Koregaon village of Pune on New Year’s Day. The Dalits were commemorating a battle fought in 1818 as part of the Anglo-Maratha Wars. A small British force had engaged a much larger army commanded by the Peshwa, the head of the Maratha confederacy. The battle ended in a stalemate but given how outnumbered they were, the British took it as a sign of their army’s bravery.
A victory obelisk erected at the site later listed the names of the soldiers who had died fighting against the Peshwa, a substantial number of whom were Mahars, Maharashtra’s largest Dalit caste. In 1927, Dalit leader BR Ambedkar visited the obelisk, starting a tradition of commemorating the battle as a Mahar victory over the upper-caste Maratha confederacy.