During the cross-examination before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry, activist Harshali Potdar was questioned about an article written by Anand Teltumbde in memory of Sridhar Srinivasan, the alleged central committee member of the banned CPI-Maoist.
Alleged to be a top urban operative of the banned organisation, Sridhar was arrested along with his aide Vernon Gonsalves by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2007. Both were convicted under various Sections of the UAPA, Explosives Substances Act and the Indian Penal Code. They were released in April 2013. Sridhar reportedly died of a heart attack on August 18, 2015.
An alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and an activist of the Republican Panthers Jatiantachi Chalwal, often referred to as just RP, Potdar and other members of the outfit, including Sudhir Dhawale, participated in a programme at the Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan in Mumbai, to mark Sridhar’s first death anniversary, on September 2, 2016.
Potdar identified herself in a photograph of this programme, in which she is seen singing songs along with Ramesh Golala, who was arrested and charged in a UAPA case by the Maharashtra ATS in January 2018 for alleged links with CPI-Maoist. Golala is currently out on bail.
During the programme, the book “S Sridhar – Portrait of the revolutionary as a warrior- intellectual”, was released. Advocate Pradip Gawade showed the book to the commission and confronted Potdar with an article from it by Anand Teltumbde.
In this article titled “He was inquisitive about developments in science and their implications for revolution”, Teltumbde has stated, “Every era has its Bhagatsinghs and Sridhar like Maoists are indeed Bhagatsinghs of our times….”
Potdar said she does not know whether Teltumbde has written this article. Gawade asked, “Devoid of the above referred Article, do you agree that a convicted person of a banned terrorist organisation, like Sridhar, is Bhagatsingh of our times?” Potdar replied, “I cannot say”.
During cross-examination, Potdar also admitted that she participated in another programme to remember Srinivasan held at the Mumbai Marathi PatrakarSangh on October 8, 2015.
Potdar identified herself in a photograph of a group of activists singing songs during the programme. They included Dhawale, advocate Surendra Gadlingand Anuradha Sonule. Currently, out on bail, Sonlule was arrested and charged along with artists of the alleged Maoist front Kabir Kala Manch, in a UAPA case lodged by Maharashtra ATS in 2011 for their alleged links with CPI-Maoist.
The two-member commission, headed by retired Justice J N Patel, is probing into the causes of the Koregaon Bhima violence of January 1, 2018, in which one person died and several others were left injured. In her affidavit before the commission, Potdar blamed Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for the violence. She deposed as a witness before the commission in Mumbai on Monday and Tuesday. Her cross examination would continue.
Potdar is among the 23 persons the Pune City Police booked in the Elgaar Parishad case for alleged links with the CPI-Maoist. But she was not among the nine accused arrested by city police, which included Dhawale, Gadling and Gonsalves. The case was later transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which further arrested seven activists including Anand Teltumbde under UAPA.
Potdar, Dhawale and other activists of RP and Kabir Kala Manch were active in organising the Elgaar Parishad, a conclave held at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017, a day before the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima.
Pune police have claimed that Elgaar Parishad was organised according to the strategy of the banned CPI-Maoist and that speeches delivered at the conclave and previous campaigns for the event were among the factors that caused the Koregaon Bhima violence.
Cross examination of IPS officer Vishwas Nangare Patil begins
IPS officer Vishwas Nangare Patil was cross examined on Wednesday before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry by advocate B G Bansode. Patil is currently the Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Mumbai Police. He was the special Inspector General of Police (SPL, IGP), Kolhapur Range, at the time of the January 1 violence in Koregaon Bhima area in Pune rural, which came under his jurisdiction.
Advocate Bansode questioned Nangare Patil about the preventive steps taken by him, intelligence reports (submitted to the commission by Rashmi Shukla, the then commissioner of Pune city police) and his whereabouts at the time of the January 1 violence.
Bansode asked him to explain “why preventive steps were not taken by curtailing social media to prevent rumour mongering much ahead of January 1, 2018, i.e., from December 25 onwards as that was one of the causes, which resulted in riots”
Nangare Patil replied, “It was not necessary to take preventive steps such as shutting down of mobile towers and internet in the region as it cannot be done as a routine. These steps are taken only in emergent situations like breaking of riots.”