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Bhima Koregaon hearing: Video reveals what happened

By Jyoti Punwani
Last updated on: January 16, 2019 10:16 IST
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The video also confirms what initial investigations by the media into the Bhima Koregaon violence had found -- that it was a fallout of a Dalit-Maratha dispute in Vudu Budruk village.
Jyoti Punwani reports from the Bhima Koregaon hearing.

Ravindra Chandane, right. Photograph: Satish Sakrikar

IMAGE: Ravindra Chandane, right. Photograph: Jyoti Punwani

Dalit witnesses have told the two-member judicial Commission inquiring into the violence at Bhima Koregaon that broke out on January 1 last year, that there were no policemen around when men carrying saffron flags roamed around in large numbers there, abusing and even assaulting them.

A five-minute video played by the Commission on Tuesday, January 15, brought this out vividly.

The video was shot by Ravindra Chandane, Thane district president of the Republican Party of India (Secular), who was himself assaulted by a mob that day. His vehicle was also damaged.

The video shows a steady stream of men, most of them young, running on the road shouting slogans, jumping and throwing their hands up.

The first policeman is seen only at one end of the disorganised marchers.


Chandane's voice can be heard in the video asking: 'What is going on? What does the administration want to do? Does it want to create a riot between us?' He told the commission he put this question to a policeman there.

Amid this crowd is a lone man carrying a blue flag. He is set upon.

Chandane told the commission he tried to get this man out of there, fearing for his safety, but was himself attacked.

After this, the video shows disjointed images, as the mobile phone on which he was shooting the video was pulled out of Chandane's hands. However, sounds of blows being given and of women screaming in terror can be heard.

Chandane, 45, suffered injuries on his back and head and a hairline fracture on his arm. He received no compensation, he told the commission.

Later, Chandane told that he had not applied for compensation for his injuries, on which he had spent about Rs 12,000.

"How much will the government give?" Chandane asked, adding. "Whatever the amount, I don't want it. The government and all you people always say that we Dalits deliberately injure ourselves just to claim compensation. I don't want to hear that said about me."

Inadvertently, the video also confirms what initial investigations by the media into the Bhima Koregaon violence had found -- that it was a fallout of a Dalit-Maratha dispute in Vudu Budruk village.

At the end of the video, Chandane's voice can be heard saying: 'What is this behaviour? We have come with small children and women.'

At that, a woman's voice says: 'You must go from here', while a male voice says: 'Two days back there was a huge fight here and so all these people have come.'

The 'huge fight' refers to the removal on December 29, 2017, of a board put up at the samadhi of Govind Gopal Gaekwad, located in Vudhu Budruk village.

Gaekwad was the Dalit who is said to have defied Aurangzeb's orders and carried out the last rites of Shivaji's son Sambhaji Maharaj. Sambhaji was killed on Aurangzeb's orders.

The removal of the board and the damaging of a concrete umbrella over Gaekwad's samadhi led to complaints being filed against the Marathas of the village under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Atrocities Act by a Dalit woman.

In turn, a Maratha filed a counter complaint against the Dalits of the village, saying they had threatened them that they would retaliate on January 1.

After he got out of the area, Chandane filed a complaint with the police at Shikrapur police station. Later, the Murbad police took his statement, but he heard nothing from them thereafter.

In his affidavit, Chandane has said he would be able to recognise his assailants.

Chandane confirmed what other witnesses had told the commission: He had been a regular visitor at the Vijay Stambh (victory pillar) erected at Bhima Koregaon to commemorate the victory of the British over the Peshwas in 1818, in which Dalit soldiers played an important role. But this was the first time he had seen violence.

This was also the first time all shops were closed, with the result that he and his companions could get neither food nor water there.

This was also the first time he saw about 800 to 1,000 men carrying saffron flags and wearing saffron tikkas gathered near the samadhi of Sambhaji Maharaj, shouting 'Bhide Guruji ki jai Milind Ekbote zindabad.'

Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide and former BJP corporator Milind Ekbote from Pune were named as accused in the first information report filed after the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Interestingly, two of the five who accompanied Chandane to Bhima Koregaon were non-Dalits, breaking the myth that only Dalits visit Bhima Koregaon every year.

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