THE ARREST of a 23-year-old student on charges of attempt to murder, in connection with the violence at Koregaon Bhima on January 1, has triggered unrest among local residents. Ganesh Rajendra Shevale (23), a resident of Koregaon Bhima, was picked up by police at around 11 pm on January 7. He has been arrested under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 324 (causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code. Shevale is currently lodged in Yerwada Central Prison.
On January 1, violent clashes had broken out between Dalit and Maratha groups during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. A man was killed and several others were injured in the violence.
While police officials claimed Shevale was spotted in one of the videos of the riots that day, his family said he was watching a film with his friends at a multiplex in Cinepolis Seasons Mall in Hadapsar on the afternoon of January 1, when the riots took place at Koregaon Bhima and neighbouring villages.
“Ganesh is fond of taking selfies. We found a selfie in his cell phone, in which he can be seen with his friends at the mall. The time stamp shows that the selfie was clicked around 12.30 pm on January 1. We have shown the selfie, as well as the movie tickets, to police. All his friends have confirmed that he had nothing to do with the riots… we have now sought police help to access the CCTV footage at Cinepolis, which will prove that he was watching the film…,” said his brother Mangesh Shevale
Ganesh’s friend Raviraj Warange, also a resident of Koregaon Bhima, said they had watched the film together, “We left on a motorcycle in the morning, along with four other friends. We reached Cinepolis around 12.30 pm. Ganesh did click a selfie at the spot. After watching the movie, we left the cinema hall at around 3.30 pm. On our way back, we got stuck in a traffic jam, and took an alternate route to go back to Koregaon Bhima. I dropped Ganesh at his home around 5 pm. By that time, the riots were over….I am ready to give my statement to the police…they have made a mistake by arresting him…”.
Another friend of Ganesh’s, Shubham Talekar, also said they had watched the film together. “It was my plan to go for the movie. We watched the film together… we got to know about the riots only after we went back home,” he said.
Ganesh is a member of the Maratha community and a final year Arts student in a city college. “He is preparing for the police recruitment exam. He is a famous for his cricket skills and he also works at a private company in the night. The police case is disturbing … On January 7, we had gone to the temple site of Mandhardevi. Ganesh didn’t go with us as he had worked in the night. We returned at around 1.30 am on January 8, but did not see Ganesh at home. We got to know that he had been arrested… we told police he was innocent and was watching a film. But the police personnel were rude… they said they too have a film (the riot video)… and told us to approach the court…,” said Mangesh.
A family member said the person in the riot video was not Ganesh. On Saturday, a group of local residents, accompanied by a lawyer, held a meeting with police officials to discuss Shevale’s case. Police Inspector Ramesh Galande of Shikrapur police station, where the case against Ganesh was registered, said, “The CCTV footage from the multiplex will be checked. If we find that Ganesh was not involved in the riots, and was arrested by mistake, then we will ensure that he is released.”