Updated: October 19, 2021 8:37:06 am
The cross-examination of Sambhaji Shivale (51), a resident of Vadhu Budruk village in Pune district, continued before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry on Monday.
Located about 4 km from Koregaon Bhima, Vadhu Budruk has the samadhi of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. The village also has a disputed tomb-like structure, which, according to the Dalit Mahar community, is the samadhi of Govind Gopal Dhegoji Meghoji, a 17th-century Dalit figure.
Marathas from 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 in 1689. The Dalit Mahar community, however, claims that Govind Gopal performed the last rites of the king. The Gaikwad family from the village claim to be successors of Govind Gopal.
A board with the ‘disputed history’ of Govind Gopal was erected by the Gaikwad family in Vadhu Budruk on the intervening night of December 28 and 29, 2017, and was allegedly removed by members of the Maratha community. This led to an altercation, which was seen as one of the triggering factors that led to the violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018, in which one person died and several others were injured.
In his affidavit filed before the commission, Shivale had submitted documents to support the narrative that his ancestors conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj. Shivale has also submitted documents claiming that the disputed structure in Vadhu Budruk was not the samadhi of Govind Gopal Dhegoji Megoji, and Govind Gopal was not the ancestor of the Gaikwads from the village.
Shivale is a school teacher and is associated with the trust ‘Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Smruti Samiti’, of which Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote is also a member. Ekbote is an accused in one of the cases of Koregaon Bhima violence. Shivale has alleged that spreading false history regarding Govind Gopal triggered the violence on January 1.
While cross-examining Shivale, advocate Kiran Channe said since Govind Gopal was from the Mahar community, the Marathas from the village do not accept that he performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj. Shivale denied this.
Channe also questioned Shivale on the basis of the book Sambhaji, authored by retired IAS officer Vishwas Patil, claiming that it mentioned that last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj were performed by Govind Gopal Mahar.
Shivale said he had read the book and it made no such mention. He said the book refers to one ‘Govind Nak’ who made available his land for the cremation of Sambhaji Maharaj. Shivale further said the book Sambhaji was a novel and not historical research. Shivale also sought time from the commission to submit papers from Pune Archives to show that reference to one ‘Damaji Patil’ in the book, a village head who was present at the time of Sambhaji Maharaj’s cremation, was not correct.
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