Battle of Bhima Koregaon: The Untold Bravery of Dalits

bhima-koregaon

Pillar of Dalit Bravery

The first day of every New Year is memorable for dalits not because this is first day of the year but because on this day in 1881 900 valiant dalit soldiers under colonel FF Staunton of East Indian company defeated vastly superior 20000 well equipped soldiers of Brahminical tyrannical ruler Peshwa and dispelled the myth of Aryan superiority.

The Peshwas of Maharashtra, who were Brahmins, were one of the cruelest rulers India had had. They had subjected Mahars (a dalit community residing with them) untold brutality. The Mahars were forced to carry a broom along with them everywhere they went so to sweep up dust of their footprints.. The Mahars under Peshwas were also forced to wear bells so that whenever they enter a street the so-called upper caste residents will be alerted of their presence. Some literatures also recount how the cruel Peshwas made it mandatory for Mahars to carry a pot attached to their neck and hanging in front of them. This was done to collect their own spittle as they were forbidden to spit on the ground.

The Mahars, forgetting all the dehumanizing treatment of so-called upper caste people under Peshwas, extended their support to the king when East India Company at the doorstep of kingdom. By then East Indian Company had annexed most of parts of India and only the powerful Maratha kingdom left to be annexed. Anyway, the arrogant casteist Peshwa ruler Bajirao II rejected the unconditional offer of Mahars. The Mahars switched the side of British as a consequence and the result was an epic of sort.

900 Mahar soldiers (some sources say 500) under Colonel FF Staunton marched to a place Bhima Koregaon on the bank of river Bhima. More than 20000 horse riding gun trotting soldiers of Peshwa awaited them there. Following a fierce battled the vast coward army of Peshwa lost the battle to a valiant army of (just)900 Mahar soldiers. With this victory, the East India company able to take control of India. The British in the honor of martyred Mahar soldiers erected a memorial pillar at the place in 1851. The memorial contains the name of Mahar soldiers who died in the battle.

On the eve of this memorial day I call upon my dalit brethrens not to forget their glorious history. You are the ones who built glorious Indus Valley Civilization. You are peaceful people but don’t remain eternally peaceful and tolerant. Don’t tolerate subjugation and oppression. Derive strength from the history and emancipate yourself. If there is anyone who can free you from this veritable chamber of torture called ‘Hinduism’, it is you yourself.

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