During the cross-examination of a witness Bhimrao Bansod in the Koregaon Bhima violence case, advocate Shishir Hiray, representing the state, submitted two videos along with transcripts on June 19 before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry. The videos showed activist Dr Bharat Patankar telling a reporter that he was in disagreement with the concept of Elgaar Parishad.
The commission, constituted by the state government to probe the causes of Koregaon Bhima violence on January 1, 2018, held hearings in Mumbai on June 19 and 20.
Patankar’s video a setback to Bansod
Bhimrao Bansod is associated to “Jati Mukti Andolan”, which is headed by Prakash Ambedkar, who was a key speaker and president of the Elgaar Parishad, which is being probed by the police for alleged Maoist links. Bansod had also participated in the Elgaar Parishad. Activist Dr Bharat Patankar was a member of the group comprising Bansod that prepared a “fact finding report” of Koregaon Bhima violence and submitted it to the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry. So, Patankar’s video, saying “holding Elgaar Parishad was wrong” is seen as a setback to Bansod, who blamed Hindutva leaders —Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide — for violence. He was the fourth witness to have deposed before the commission. His cross-examination began October last year and concluded on June 19. He was cross-examined during several hearings held by the Commission in Mumbai by six lawyers, including Niteen Pradhan, representing Ekbote.
According to the transcript submitted by Hiray, Patankar said that “those who gathered for the Elgaar Parishad (ahead of the 200th commemoration of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon) had different spirit”. Replying to a question about Elgaar Parishad, Patankar said that “at a time when people were about to gather in lakhs (at Jaystambh on January 1, 2018), some people holding a Parishad (on December 31, 2017) was not correct”.
Patankar, who along with activists Bhimrao Bansod of Aurangabad, Prof Pratima Joshi and Kishor Dhamale were part of a “fact finding” team, had visited Koregaon Bhima, Vadhu Budruk and Sanaswadi between 1 pm and 7 pm on January 4, 2018.
They had released their “fact finding report” on June 5 on behalf of “Jati Mukti Andolan”, an organisation which is not registered and is headed by Prakash Ambedkar. The “fact finding report” had called Koregaon Bhima violence an alleged attack on Dalits and minorities. Bansod had submitted the “fact finding report” before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry along with his affidavit.
Showing videos of Patankar to Bansod, advocate Hiray asked whether he agreed with the views expressed by Patankar with respect to holding the Elgaar Parishad. Bansod said, “Yes”. Leader of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), Bansod, however, blamed Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for the Koregaon Bhima violence.
But, as per the videos and transcripts submitted by Hiray, Patankar told the reporter that during “fact finding”, people said that those who caused the violence were not local residents and had come from outside. Further replying to a question by the reporter about Bhide and Ekbote on the “first day of fact finding”, Patankar said, “Kahi Navhta (Nothing)”.
Also, Patankar’s signature was missing on the “fact finding report” that Bansod submitted to the commission. So, Hiray alleged that Patankar did not sign the report as it was “distorted, biased and prepared with an ulterior motive”. Hiray also claimed that Patankar did not agree with the report as the incident of riots were caused by “outside persons” and not local residents. Bansod refuted, saying Patankar agreed with the “fact finding report” and by “outside persons”, he meant Ekbote and Bhide.
Meanwhile, pointing to alleged discrepancies in the “fact finding report”, Hiray blamed Bansod, saying they “did not conduct proper inquiry in order to arrive at the true facts”, “did not make any inquiry in respect to the damages suffered by local residents” because it was going against their “interest, aims and objective”. Bansod denied.
As per cross-examination, Bansod had attended the “Elgaar Parishad Sabha on December 31, 2017 at Shanivarwada, Pune because there was a strong apprehension that persons belonging to Brahmin Mahasangh and followers of Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide are likely to create disturbance”. Bansod also said that he went to “Jaystambh” on January 1, 2018 and it was his first visit to the place.
When Hiray questioned Bansod if he had attended Elgaar Parishad and visited Jaystambh next day “to counter the disturbance likely to be caused by persons belonging to Brahmin Mahasangh and persons who were followers of Ekbote and Bhide”, Bansod said it was not correct, but he apprehended that “they (followers of Ekbote, Bhide) were going to cause disturbance and they were successful.”
Hiray asked Bansod if he visited the Jaystambh for the first time on January 1, 2018 because he was inspired by the Elgaar Parishad campaign. To that, Bansod said he visited Jaystambh for the first time because “it was celebrating 200th year of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. The objective was to cover the celebrations as an editor of Lal Nishan monthly magazine of our party and not concerned with the Elgaar Parishad campaign.”
Hiray also asked Bansod to read an Elgaar Parishad pamphlet “Chalo Bhima Koregaon Prerna March” stating “Bhima Koregaon ne dilay dhada Navin peshwai Masnath Gaada”. He asked Bansod if he agreed that the contents of the pamphlet were “provocative and instigating”? Bansod replied, “I don’t agree. However, I will not write such matter.”
Hiray concluded Bansod’s cross-examination, alleging that the objective of their “fact finding report” was “to preach and practice of ideology of Maoist i.e. to capture political power through bullets and not ballots”. Bansod refuted the allegation.
In an offence lodged in connection with the Elgaar Parishad, the Pune City Police has so far booked 23 persons and arrested nine of them for allegedly being members of the banned CPI-Maoist.
Meanwhile, cross-examination of another witness Vidyan-anad Kakade was also conducted on June 20. “The next hearings will be held in Pune between July 22 and 26,” said Ashish Satpute, lawyer for the commission.