Videos submitted by eyewitnesses, which were played before the Koregaon Bhima Inquiry Commission on Tuesday, purportedly showed incidents of flag waving at the “beginning of the violence” on January 1, 2018.
Ravindra Lahuji Chandane of Murbad in Thane district, a leader of Republican Party of India (Secular) and an eyewitness to the Koregaon Bhima violence, was cross-examined on Tuesday by advocate Pradeep Gavade, who represented witness Sagar Shinde.
In his affidavit submitted before the commission, Chandane had stated that on January 1, 2018, he along with a group of activists visited the samadhis of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj and Govind Gopal Mahar in Vadhu Budruk. They then headed towards Koregaon Bhima, “where a mob of about 1,500 to 2,000 people were waving flags aggressively and shouting slogans — Sambhaji Bhide Zindabad, Milind Ekbote Zindabad”.
Chandane added that during the same time, some people were also shouting slogans of Jai Bhim. He stated that some of those holding saffron flags were shouting abusive comments against the Ambedkarites. “About 250 to 300 persons from a mob ran towards a youth carrying a blue flag, encircled him and started beating him,” the affidavit stated. He said he was beaten up by someone when he tried to pacify the mob. Chandane submitted a video as evidence before the commission and a copy of a police complaint filed on January 1, 2018, which stated that the mob with saffron flags also shouted slogans of ‘RSS Zindabaad’.
During his cross-examination, advocate Gavade asked him to point out in the video the slogans that he had stated in the affidavit and complaint. The video with garbled audio was played, and only some slogans such as “Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji”, “Jai Bhim”, “Ekadach Ghusel, Bhagava Disel” were audible. The other slogans regarding Hindutva leaders and RSS were not audible. Advocate Gavade alleged that Chandane added these slogans on his own for creating enmity in the society and to suit his political agenda. However, Chandane refuted the allegations.
Meanwhile, another video of the “beginning of the violence” submitted by another eyewitness Ganesh Phadtare, who is also accused in the Koregaon Bhima violence case, was played. The video showed that a youth holding a blue flag came running from a distance and entered the mob carrying saffron flags and then waved the blue flag. As per the video, an altercation at this point started the violence.
Pointing to it, Gavade told Chandane that his claims — a mob carrying saffron flag ran towards the youth holding a blue flag and thrashed him — are false and misleading. Chandane again denied the allegation.
Chandane’s cross-examination will continue on Wednesday.