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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry: Witness questioned about disputed samadhi of Govind Gopal at Vadhu Budruk

The witness is a retired inspector from the income tax department, Gaikwad belongs to Dalit Mahar community and currently resides at Laxmi Nagar, Parvati.

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: August 2, 2021 11:35:34 pm
Bhima koregaon, Bhima koregaon inquiry commission, bhima koregaon witnessGaikwad's cross examination will continue on Tuesday. (File)

Pralhad Ishwar Gaikwad (63), deposed as a witness before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry on Monday, was questioned by lawyers about the disputed samadhi of Govind Gopal in Vadhu Budruk village.

A retired inspector from the income tax department, Gaikwad belongs to Dalit Mahar community and currently resides at Laxmi Nagar, Parvati.

Vadhu Budruk is known for the samadhi of legendary Maratha king Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. The village also has a disputed tomb-like structure, which according to the Mahar community, is the samadhi of Govind Gopal Dhegoji Meghoji, a 17th century Dalit figure. The Gaikwad family from the village claims to be successors of Govind Gopal.

Several persons from the Dalit Mahar community, who visit ‘Jaystambh’ on January 1 to mark the anniversary of battle of Koregaon Bhima, also visit Vadhu Budruk.

There is dispute as Marathas from the Vadhu Budruk village believe it was their ancestors, the Shivale Deshmukhs, who defied the orders of Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj after he was killed by the Mughal emperor. And the Dalit Mahar community claims that Govind Gopal performed the last rites of the king.

A board with the “disputed history” of Govind Gopal erected by the Gaikwad family in Vadhu Budruk on the intervening night of December 28 and 29, 2017, was allegedly removed by members of the Maratha community. This led to an altercation, seen as a trigger for the violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and several others were left injured.

The witness, Pralhad Gaikwad, had submitted a hand-written letter to the Vadhu Budruk gram panchayat on May 16, 2018, in which he claimed to be the owner of a land in Vadhu Budruk (which is believed to be the spot where disputed Samadhi of Govind Gopal exists).

In his letter, Gaikwad stated no permissions should be granted for carrying out any development on this land without his permission. The letter also mentioned that “there was no samadhi at this place and that it has come up in the last 2-3 years”. Then on May 28, 2018, Gaikwad submitted a notarised affidavit with similar content at the gram panchayat.

Vadhu Budruk sarpanch had submitted Gaikwad’s affidavit before the commission in June 2018, to show there was no samadhi of Govind Gopal in the past. But Gaikwad submitted to the commission on October 4, 2018, that his affidavit dated May 28 is false. And that he was misled by Santosh Shivle (former deputy sarpanch, who had signed Gaikwad’s affidavit as a person identifying him) while preparing this affidavit. Commission’s lawyer Ashish Satpute took his submission on record during chief examination.

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During cross examination by advocate B G Bansod, Gaikwad said “Govind Gopal Mahar” is his ancestor and that he was seeing the samadhi since childhood.

But lawyer M V Deshmukh cross examined Gaikwad by pointing out his hand written and self-attested letter dated May 16, as per which “samadhi came up in the last 2-3 years”.

Deshmukh said “there was no Samadhi of Govind Gopal Mahar in land owned by Gaikwad or his family” and he is “falsely claiming that there was a Samadhi, due to pressure from other members of Gaikwad family”.

Gaikwad said, “The Samadhi was of mud–bricks which got washed away in the year 1997 due to floods… now existing Samadhi of Govind Gopal Mahar is not at the same place where it was earlier located…”

Gaikwad also said he does not have any document or record to show that Samadhi of “Govind Gopal Mahar” existed on their land “prior to December 28, 2017”.

Gaikwad’s cross examination will continue on Tuesday. Meanwhile, advocate Rahul Makhare cross examined former Vadhu Budruk sarpanch Rekha Shivale. Her cross examination will continue on Wednesday.

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