Mumbai: Protests by thousands of members of the Ramoshi community from across the State, who had gathered at Azad Maidan on Tuesday, ended with the government agreeing to meet their demand for recognition for freedom fighter Umaji Naik Khomane.
After holding a protest rally from July 28 in Pune, Kolhapur, Satara, Nashik and Solapur, a 10-member representative committee of the Akhil Maharashtra Berad Ramoshi Samaj Kruti Samiti met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday afternoon.
Later in the day, Food Supplies Minister Girish Bapat visited the protesting community members and agreed to meet their demands.
Maruti Chavan, General Secretary of the Samiti, said Khomane was labelled a criminal during the British Raj, and as a result the British named the entire Ramoshi community a ‘criminal tribe’.
“We had demanded the recognition of his service, and rehabilitation of our status. Mr. Fadnavis agreed to this, and all our demands were satisfactorily met. It is truly a great victory, as Umaji’s birth anniversary will now be celebrated, and the State will also construct a memorial in his name,” Mr. Chavan said.
Khomane was born on September 7, 1791, in Bhiwadi, Pune district. He was known for raising an army against the British in 1825, when the Maratha Kingdom fell, and for proclaiming his anti-British manifesto more than a quarter of a century prior to the popular uprising of 1847. The British government announced a bounty of ₹10,000 to capture him. After his arrest in 1831, Khomane was held captive for almost two years and hanged on February 3, 1832.
“The rebellion started as an invocation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Khomane wanted to re-establish Shivaji’s ideas. The Ramoshi community were a low caste, close to untouchables, but who nevertheless performed the role of security in the Maratha kingdom. He raised them to fight against the British rule, as the Ramoshis were suppressed mostly under the British,” Professor Umesh Bagade of the Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, a historian specialising in Indian Freedom Struggle, told The Hindu .
Mr. Bagade said that for two years, Khomane led the Ramoshis in what can be called the last effort of the Marathas in their fight for their kingdom.
The Ramoshi community, also known as the Berads, is close to 1.5-crore strong in Maharashtra. Many of the Ramoshis are involved in farming activities, just like Mr. Chavan, who owns a vegetable shop in Vashi.