A FORMER deputy sarpanch, Ganesh Phadtare, of Koregaon Bhima village deposed before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry on Monday during the ongoing hearing in the Koregaon Bhima violence case, for which the commission has conducted a number of hearings in Mumbai as well as Pune.
The Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry, headed by retired Justice J N Patel, was formed by the state government for probing into the violence in the area on January 1, 2018, in which one person had died and several others were left injured.
The hearing will continue till May 8. During Phadtare’s cross examination, advocate B G Bansode, who represents witnesses Tukaram Gavare and Bhaskar Pandagale, asked him the details of a WhatsApp group named ‘Koregaon Bhima Yuva Manch’.
Phadtare said he did not remember whether he was a member of this group. Phadtare, who was arrested in connection with the Koregaon Bhima violence, said his cell phone was seized by police.
Bansode stated that this WhatsApp group comprised members from the Maratha community and Hindutva activists. To this, Phadtare said he was unaware of this. Phadtare’s cross examination will continue on Tuesday. Phadtare is considered to be a key witness as he had played a role in preparing the letter for keeping Koregaon Bhima village bandh on January 1, 2018.
Before Phadtare, advocate Bansode cross-examined a Vadhu Budruk resident, Krishna Dattatraya Argade. Bansode pointed out the discrepancies in the information given during cross examination before the commission and details mentioned in his affidavit.
Then, during his cross examination by advocate Shishir Hiray, who represents the state, Argade said it was correct to say there would have been no problems in the village if the disputed board about Govind Gopal Mahar was not erected on December 28, 2017.
Argade said the situation in the village was peaceful and there was harmony among all sections till December 28, 2017.
Argade also replied in the affirmative when Hiray asked him if after the dispute over the board on December 29, 2017, the villagers came together and sorted out their differences and whether since then the situation has remained peaceful and the villagers (from different castes and religions) took part in each other’s social, cultural and religious functions.
Hiray also asked Argade about a water facility near the samadhi of Sambhaji Maharaj in the village. Argade said all villagers and visitors, who flock to the samadhi throughout the year, used this water facility. Argade’s cross examination concluded today.
Hiray pointed out that Argade had studied till Class VII and was not an expert in history. Vadhu Budruk is known for samadhis of Sambhaji Maharaj and his close lieutenant Kavi Kalash, both of whom were killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1689. However, there is a dispute over who conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj.
The Marathas believe it was their ancestors, the Shivale Deshmukhs, who defied the orders of Aurangzeb and performed the last rites. But as per the Dalit narrative, particularly of the Ambedkarites, the last rites were performed by 17th century Dalit personality Govind Gopal Mahar.
A disputed board on the history of Mahar was erected by the Dalit community in Vadhu Budruk on the intervening night of December 28 and 29, 2017, which was removed by members of the Maratha community, leading to an altercation, seen as a trigger for the violence on January 1, 2018.