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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ekbote instigated Koregaon Bhima violence, Elgaar Parishad organiser tells panel

Advocate Ashish Satpute, the lawyer representing the commission, started recording her examination in chief on Wednesday.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: September 30, 2021 7:21:31 am
On January 1, 2018, the day of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, violence had broken out in which one person was killed and several injured. (File)

Harshali Potdar (33), who was named as an accused in the Elgaar Parishad case over her alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist, deposed as a witness before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday.

Advocate Ashish Satpute, the lawyer representing the commission, started recording her examination in chief on Wednesday. Potdar told the commission that she was a degree holder from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and has been working with the Ambedkarite movement. She said she was part of several private fact-finding committees formed to look into incidents of atrocities against Dalits.

Potdar told the commission there were two versions about the history of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, which took place on January 1, 1818. She claimed that the progressive movement believes that to end casteism during the Peshwa regime, the Dalit Mahar soldiers joined the British Army to fight against Peshwa forces in the battle. She said “Brahmanical Hindutva” forces, on the other hand, call January 1 a “black day” and consider those who fought from the British side in the battle as “traitors”.

Claiming that Ekbote had instigated the violence that broke out at Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018, Potdar submitted to the commission a “press note” issued by the Hindutva leader, as well as a letter he had submitted to the district collector a few days before the violence, in which he had expressed his opposition to the gathering of people, mainly from the Dalit Ambedkarite communities, at the Jaystambh or war memorial in Perne for commemorating the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, fought between the British Army and Peshwa forces.

A member of the Republican Panthers caste annihilation movement, Potdar was among the organisers of the Elgaar Parishad, an evening conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, a day before the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.

A two-member commission, appointed by the then Devendra Fadnavis-led government and headed by retired Justice J N Patel, is probing the sequence of events that led to the violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day, January 1. Potdar had filed an affidavit before the commission, in which she blamed Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for the January 1 violence.

Potdar was also among the six persons named as accused in the FIR lodged at the Vishrambag police station in Pune by one Tushar Damgude, in connection with the Elgaar Parishad. During investigation, Pune City Police had claimed the speeches at Elgaar Parishad and campaigns for the event had triggered the violence.

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