Appearing before the Koregaon Bhima Inquiry Commission on Saturday, Sarpanch of Vadhu Budruk village, Rekha Shivale, said there was no record of the disputed Govind Gopal Gaikwad samadhi in the Gram Panchayat’s records, and the structure had come up in the last two to three years.
During her chief examination recorded by advocate Aashish Satpute, Shivale said records in the Gram Panchayat regarding the historical places in the village included the samadhi of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, Kavi Kalash, the samadhi of Shiva – Deshmukh alias Bapuji Buva and Padmavati, and old temples. “There is no mention of Govind Gopal Samadhi in any of the records,” she said.
Shivale also produced before the commission documents given to the Gram Panchayat by one Prahlad Iswar Gaikwad, a Dalit belonging to Vadhu Budruk, regarding registration of his name as a heir on the land where the disputed Govind Gopal Samadhi was located.
The documents also included a hand-written application as well as a notarised affidavit by Prahlad Gaikwad in May 2018, stating that the land belonged to him and gram panchayat should not give permission for any kind of development on this land. The documents stated that there was a house on the land owned by Prahlad Gaikwad, which was washed away during the 1997 floods on Bhima river.
Shivale also produced more land related documents like city survey papers.
However, Prahlad has now filed a separate affidavit before the commission, denying the earlier affidavits submitted before the Gram Panchayat. “My document was regarding registration of my name as the heir on the land. I do not say that the Samadhi of Govind Gopal Gaikwad came up only three years ago. This information was taken wrongly and mischievously on my affidavit. So, I have told the commission that my affidavit filed before the Gram Panchayat should be denied,” said Prahlad.
Gram Panchayat members, however, claimed that Prahlad was denying his affidavit under “pressure”.
Vadhu Budruk is known for the samadhi of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, who was killed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1689. The Marathas believe it was their ancestors, Shivale Deshmukhs, who defied the orders of Aurangzeb and performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj. As per the Dalit narrative, particularly of the Ambedkarites, it was Govind Gopal of Mahar community who performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj.
A board with disputed history about Govind Gopal, erected in the village in the evening of December 28, 2017, was removed by Maratha residents of the village, leading to an altercation on December 29. The shed over Govind Gopal’s samadhi was damaged in the incident.
Sushma Ovhal, a member of the Dalit community, had then filed a complaint against 49 persons, including sarpanch Rekha Shivale, under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act case. Ramakant Shivale, a member of the Maratha community and part of the Gram Panchayat, had also filed a cross-complaint claiming Dalits had threatened them with retaliation on January 1, when lakhs of Dalits were expected to visit the ‘Jaystambh’ erected a few km away, in Perne, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima.
The Vadhu Budruk incident is seen as one of the triggers that sparked off violence in Koregaon Bhima area on January 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and hundreds injured.
Meanwhile, Rekha Shivale claimed the complaint filed by Sushma Ovhal was false and submitted videos of the December 29 incident. She claimed that the video showed members of the Gaikwad family abusing the villagers. On December 30, police had convened a meeting of all sides, where villagers and members of the Gaikwad family reached a compromise and the cross-complaints were withdrawn, said Shivale.
Shivale’s cross-examination will continue during the next hearing. Meanwhile, advocate B G Bansode continued with the cross-examination of witness Sharad Dahhade on Saturday. Bansode asked him questions regarding the activities of Milind Ekbote and Dharmaveer Sambhaji Maharaj Smruti Samiti in village, and Dabhade said he was not aware of either.