Ashok Athavale, a Dalit man whose house and shop in Sanaswadi village were torched during the Koregaon Bhima violence on January 1, 2018, deposed before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry on Thursday.
Athavale’s wife had filed a First Information Report (FIR) at Shikrapur police station on January 7, 2018, regarding the attack on their house and shop. Police also recorded an additional statement by Athavale on February 16, 2018.
Athavale told the commission that rumours were spread that he and his wife had thrown mutton and liquor at the temple of Bhairavnath in Sansaswadi.
During his cross-examination by advocate Sandeep Dongre, he also said that on December 31, 2017, “sarpanch and gram panchayat of Sanaswadi, decided to observe January 1, 2018 as a ‘Black Day’ and this was given publicity through social media… A rally was taken out in the village to forewarn shopkeepers and owners of establishments like hotels to shut down on January 1, 2018.”
Athavale said his wife, Rama, had in her affidavit to the commission given details of the decision taken by the gram panchayat. Lawyer for the state, Shishir Hiray, asked Athavale why this fact (about the village observing Black Day on January 1, 2018) was not mentioned by him and his wife in the FIR dated January 2, 2018, and the supplementary statement dated February 16, 2018. Athavale replied that due to riots and disturbances, they were not in the frame of mind to mention it.
Hiray said 10 accused were arrested in connection with the attack on Athavale’s house and a chargesheet was filed against them in December 2018. Athavale received compensation of Rs 60 lakh from the state of Maharashtra. He was rehabilitated to a house in Kasba Peth area of Pune city, but he said that recently, he got a notice from the government to vacate the residence. He also said that he was earlier given police protection, which was later withdrawn.
Athavale said his family need police security due to repeated incidents of threats and assaults. The commission has asked Athavale’s wife, Rama, to depose as a witness on Friday. Meanwhile, the cross-examination of Koregaon Bhima resident Nikhil Daundkar concluded on Thursday.
The two-member Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry, headed by retired Justice J N Patel, is probing the causes of the violence, in which one person died and several others were injured.
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