(Eds: Adding collector's quotes) Pune, Jan 1 (PTI) Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and some other leaders paid tributes at the 'Jay Stambh' near here on Friday on the 203rd anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle.
State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, Power Minister Dr Nitin Raut were also among those who paid tributes at the memorial, located near Perne Village on Pune-Ahmednagar Road.
Prakash Ambedkar, president of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), also visited the victory pillar and paid tributes.
On the occasion, Pawar appealed to the people not to visit the memorial and instead pay their tributes by staying indoors in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lakhs of people congregate every year at the 'Jay Stambh' to offer tributes on the anniversary of the battle, which was fought on January 1, 1818, between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy.
However, due to COVID-19 this year, the district administration and the members of Bhima Koregaon Vijaystambh Shauryadin Samanvay Samiti had urged the people to avoid coming to the memorial and pay their respects by staying indoors.
The district administration has already imposed section 144 of the CrPC, restricting entry to outsiders into Perne and other adjoining villages. However, representatives of the outfits and prominent personalities from political and social spheres have been allowed to visit the memorial and pay respects.
According to the district and police administration, around 3000 pass holders paid a visit to the victory pillar to offer their tributes to the memorial.
'The entire ceremony took place in a disciplined manner. By 1.30 pm, around 3000 people belonging to various outfits, who were given passes, paid a visit to the memorial adhering to all the physical distancing norms,' said Pune District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh.
Speaking to reporters after his visit, Ambedkar said January 1 is a day to free oneself from 'social bondage'.
'The battle (Koregaon Bhima Battle) was a fight against untouchability that was being followed during the Peshwa rule and it received success,' he said.
The social movement is still on and the importance of this programme will remain intact till the time democracy is not restored in the true sense, he said.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale also paid tributes at the 'Jay Stambh'.
Athawale said he would write to the education minister to include the history of Koregaon Bhima battle in textbooks.
On the 200th anniversary of the battle on January 1, 2018, violence had broken out in and around the village, in which one person was killed and several others injured. PTI SPK NP ARU BNM BNM