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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Koregaon Bhima: Elgaar Parishad organiser questioned on presence at convicted Maoist’s death anniversary

A 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 had died and several others were injured.

Written by Chandan Haygunde | Pune |
Updated: November 18, 2021 5:50:24 am
Activists perform protest songs during the programme to remember Maoist Sridhar Srinivasan in Mumbai on Friday. Srinivasan, a top urban Maoist operative, died of heart attack in 2015. (Express File Photo)

As the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry restarted its hearings in Mumbai, witness Harshali Potdar, an organiser of the Elgaar Parishad, was questioned about her participation in a programme held in the city to mark the death anniversary of convicted Maoist leader Sridhar Srinivasan.

An alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Potdar is an activist of the Republican Panthers Jatiantachi Chalwal, often referred to as just RP. Alleged to be a top urban operative of the banned CPI-Maoist, 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 Indian Penal Code. The duo was released in April 2013. Sridhar reportedly died of a heart attack on August 18, 2015.

Harshali Potdar, her close aide Sudhir Dhawale, who is among the arrested accused in the Elgaar Parishad case for alleged links with the banned CPI-Maoist, and other members of the RP took part in a programme at the Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan in Mumbai, to mark Sridhar’s first death anniversary, on September 2, 2016. A photograph from this programme shows Potdar performing protest songs along with Ramesh Golala, one of the alleged CPI-Maoist operatives arrested by the ATS in Mumbai in January 2018, under UAPA and IPC sections.

During cross-examination on Tuesday, advocate Niteen Pradhan asked Potdar whether she knew Sridhar Srinivasan and that he was convicted under UAPA.

“I do not know” said Potdar. Pradhan told Potdar that she and her colleague Dhawale participated in the programme “not only as sympathisers but also as followers of Com Sridhar Shrinivasan”. Potdar denied it but identified herself in the photograph shown to her of performing songs at the programme.


Potdar was also asked about her TISS research work titled ‘The Emergence of Maoist Movement as Counter to State’s Development Paradigm – In vista of various Stakeholder’s Perspective (An Inquiry into the Subjective Experiences of Gadchiroli District)’. The cross-examination will continue on Thursday.

A 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 had died and several others were injured. In her affidavit before the Commission, Potdar has blamed Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for the violence.

Potdar was among the organisers of 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 Bhima Koregaon. She is among the 23 persons booked by the Pune City Police in the Elgaar Parishad case for alleged links with the CPI-Maoist, but she was not arrested.

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