Koregaon-Bhima riots: Commission to record evidence

The Commission of Inquiry is headed by Justice (Retd) J N Patel, the former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court. PTI file photo

Eight months after the riots in Koregaon-Bhima in Pune district that killed at least three persons and led to the destruction of property worth more than a crore, a Maharashtra Government-appointed Commission of Inquiry would recording the evidence next month.

The Commission of Inquiry is headed by Justice (Retd) J N Patel, the former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court.

The then Chief Secretary Sumit Mallick is the second member of the commission that was constituted in February by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The evidence would be recorded from 5-7 September and 3-6 October in Pune, according to a public announcement on Tuesday.

The commission would look into various aspects of the 1 January riots, the circumstances that led to the situation, whether or not the Pune district police and administration was prepared to handle such a situation, the steps taken by them, to fix responsibility and also recommend how to prevent such incidents in future.

The issue was quite complex – that led to the incident, according to information available so far.

On 29 December, the samadhi of Govind Gopal Mahar (Gaikwad) was vandalized Vadhu Budruk, a village nearly 3 km away from Koregaon Bhima. Govind, a Dalit, had conducted the last rites of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s eldest son Sambhaji, who was killed at the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1689.

On 31 December, the Elgar Parishad held at Shaniwardwada in Pune city to commemorate the 200th-anniversary of Koregaon-Bhima battle had several persons including Jignesh Mewani, Radhika Vemula, Umar Khalid, Vinay Ratan Singh, Soni Sori and Prashant Dontha. Mewani and Khalid were accused of making inflammatory statements.

On 1 January, an altercation between two groups took place during the celebrations – organized by Bhima KoregaonShaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan -to mark the bicentenary of the Anglo-Maratha war at Bhima Koregaon in Shirur taluka in Pune district in which the Mahar caste soldiers of Bombay Native Infantry of East India Company defeated the Peshwas. One youth was killed in the incident.

Thereafter, 2 and 3 January, saw violence and statewide bandh which was called by Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. One boy was killed in lathi-charge. Media reports released later, point to at least two more victims that died during the riots. 

Ambedkar had blamed two staunch Right-wing ideologues – Sangli-based Sambaji Bhide Guruji, the founder of Shree Shiv Pratisthan Hindustan and Pune-based Milind Ekbote, the founder of Samastha Hindu Aghadi, for violence at Koregaon Bhima.

While Bhide Guruji was given clean chit by the government, Ekbote was arrested after his anticipatory bail was rejected by the Supreme Court.

In June, five activists Surendra Gadling, General Secretary Indian Association of People’s Lawyers from Nagpur, Prof Shoma Sen, Head of Department of English, Nagpur University, Sudhir Dhawale, Editor Vidrohi from Mumbai, Rona Wilson, Public Relations Secretary, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CORPP) and Mahesh Raut, anti-displacement activist from Bharat Jan Andolan and former Fellow at Prime Minister’s Rural Development (PMRD) for Gadchiroli district, were arrested for alleged links with Maoists and connection with Koregaon-Bhima

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Koregaon-Bhima riots: Commission to record evidence

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