Sagar Gavhane, a clerk at Koregaon Bhima gram panchayat, who deposed before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry on Monday said that the gram panchayat office was open on January 1, 2018, the day when violence broke out in the area.
“I was present in the gram panchayat office on January 1, 2018. The office of gram panchayat was functioning on January 1, 2018, and nobody observed bandh… Shops and establishments in the village were open and functioning on January 1, 2018,” Gavhane told the commission during cross-examination by advocate Shishir Hiray, the lawyer representing the state
Gavhane had typed the letter of the Koregaon Bhima gram panchayat which mentioned a local bandh on January 1, 2018. The letter was also submitted to the Shikrapur police station on December 31, 2017.
As per an affidavit, filed by Gavhane before the inquiry commission, former deputy sarpanch Ganesh Phadtare had called him urgently to the gram panchayat on December 31, 2017. Gavhane said Phadtare and his seven workers were present at the gram panchayat office. He stated that Phadtare had asked him to type the ‘bandh’ letter. The letter named Phadtare as the proposer and Yogesh Narhari Gavhane as the person who seconded it.
The affidavit mentions that Gavhane had told Phadtare that Yogesh was not present in the village, but Phadtare had raised his voice and asked the former to type Yogesh’s name on it. It also states that then village sarpanch Sangita Kamble had come and signed the letter. A gram panchayat peon later gave the letter to the police.
On Monday, Gavhane told the inquiry commission that no formal meeting was called by the gram panchayat, where a decision was taken to call Koregaon Bhima bandh on January 1, 2018. He stated there was an informal meeting of villagers on December 30, 2017, wherein they had expressed their concern over the situation following a dispute in Vadhu Budruk – over putting up a board with disputed history – on December 29 that year. “However, no minutes of the meeting came to be recorded,” he said.
But following the discussions among villagers, Phadtare and his associates allegedly got the letter prepared by Gavhane on December 31, 2017. The letter was entered in the outward register of the gram panchayat for December 30, 2017, Gavhane said. “As December 31, 2017, was Sunday, the letter was dated December 30, 2017,” he said.
Advocate Pushkar Durge, representing the Vadhu Budruk gram panchayat, questioned Gavhane about a post on a WhatsApp group, ‘Koregaon Bhima Yuva Manch’ on December 31, 2017, in which Nitin Gavhane Patil, who headed the “Quarrel Free Village Committee”, appealed to the public to maintain peace as the dispute between two communities in Vadhu Budruk was settled. Gavhane was a member of this WhatsApp group, which he later left.
In his reply, Gavhane said the group had persons from different castes and communities from Koregaon Bhima village and that he had seen the message posted by Nitin Gavhane Patil.
Earlier, Gavhave was questioned by other lawyers about the alleged objectionable posts in the same WhatsApp group claiming these messages had caused violence on January 1, 2018. He was also cross-examined by advocate Rahul Makhare. His cross-examination concluded today.
Rekha Shivale, sarpanch of Vadhu Budruk village, was also cross-examined on Monday. Advocate B G Bansode questioned Shivale over ‘discrepancies’ about the affidavits and documents submitted by her before the commission. Bansode also questioned Shivale about the board, with the disputed history on Govind Gopal Mahar, which was put up in Vadhu Budruk on December 28, 2017. Shivale’s cross-examination will continue on Tuesday, Ashish Satpute, lawyer for the commission, said.
The Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry, headed by retired justice J N Patel, was formed by the state government last year for probing into the violence in Koregaon Bhima area on January 1, 2018, in which one person had died and several others were left injured.