As cross-examination of Ravindra Lahuji Chandane, considered to be an important eye witness to the starting point of the Koregaon Bhima violence, concluded on Thursday, lawyers argued before the “Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry” over youth wearing red shirt having black sleeves, who was seen in few videos, running with a blue flag into a mob holding saffron flags, after which the violence had sparked on January 1, 2018.
Hailing from Murbad in Thane district, Chandane deposed before the commission, which is conducting an inquiry into the violence that occurred in Koregaon Bhima area in Pune district on January 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and several others were left injured.
According to Chandane’s affidavit, on January 1, 2018, on the occasion of 200th commemoration of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, he along with a group of activists, including one Kishor Gaikwad, had 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 was waving saffron flags aggressively and shouting slogans.
Chandane, a leader of political outfit Republican Party of India (Secular), stated that about 250 to 300 persons from a mob ran towards a youth carrying a blue flag, encircled him and started beating him. He had also submitted a video of the incident as evidence.
Video submitted by another witness of the same incident showed that the youth (wearing red shirt having black sleeves) holding blue flag came running from a distance and entered into the mob carrying saffron flags. As observed in the video, he waved the blue flag repeatedly. Then, an altercation over waving of flags sparked violence at the spot in Koregaon Bhima on the Pune-Ahmednagar Road.
During the cross-examination, advocate Shishir Hiray, representing the state, showed photographs of a person wearing similar clothes (red shirt having black sleeves) identical to the youth carrying blue flag into the mob holding saffron flags.
Hiray asked Chandane whether that person was Kishor Gaikwad, who was accompanying him during the visit to Koregaon Bhima. Chandane replied that the youth was not Kishor Gaikwad. He later also produced Gaikwad’s photo before the commission.
Meanwhile, Chandane’s lawyer Kiran Channe took objection that if they had not submitted Gaikwad’s photo to clear the confusion, the state’s counsel would have “foisted the blame on the witness as instrumental in causing riots on January 1, 2018.” Hiray said the “objection is hypothetical”.
Channe argued even after a year-and-a-half, the police had failed to identify the person (wearing red shirt with black sleeves).