The Maharashtra government will mark 77th raising day of the first Mahar Regiment here on December 15, two weeks ahead of the anniversary of 1818 Battle of Bhima Koregaon in Pune district. According to a government source, the aim behind observing the raising day in December is to defuse tension ahead of January 1.
Dalits visiting the war memorial at Bhima Koregaon on the 200th anniversary of the decisive battle between forces of the Peshwa and the British East India Company came under attack on January 1 this year, leading to protests across the state.
Dalits commemorate the 1818 battle as the victorious British forces included a large number of Mahar soldiers. Mahars are a prominent Dalit community in Maharashtra.
Some right-wing organisations had opposed the commemoration of the East India Company's victory as it ended the Peshwa rule in Pune.
As per the records, the first battalion of the Mahar regiment was established in Belgaum on October 1, 1941.
But a source in the BJP-led government said Thursday that the raising day function will be held this month so as to erase the perception created by incidents of January 1 that the government is anti-Dalit.
The government also fears fresh trouble as Dalits will be visiting the war memorial on January 1 like every year.
Minister of State for Social Justice Dilip Kamble said apprehending fresh attempts to rekindle the controversy, the government has held meetings with all stakeholders including sarpanchs (village heads) of local villages.
There would be elaborate security at the memorial and in surrounding areas, he said.
A sarpanch belonging to the NCP has issued a diktat that shops and eateries in the area should be shut down on January 1 in defiance of a government order that all these establishment should remain open, he said.
Taking no chances, the government, through the Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute, has made arrangements to provide food to those who visit the memorial, he said.
Another source said the government has denied permission to the Elgar Parishad to organise any function at the site.