Bhima Koregaon riots: Thousands suffered losses, but compensation ‘inadequate’, reached 260 families at most

When thousands of people had been victimised in Bhima Koregaon riots, the compensation of Rs 7.97 crores sanctioned by the Maharashtra state government seems to have reached only 260 families at the most.

Firstpost accessed the list of beneficiaries of the government compensation from the Pune district administration. The administration has categorised it into 14 heads based on type of property loss a person suffered, and includes subheads like houses, hotels, shops, vehicles and so on. For example, Rs 1.83 crores is to be distributed between 138 vehicle owners. Rs 1.69 crores is to be distributed between the owners of 47 shops which were found to be vandalised in the riots. Twenty houses which were damaged will receive Rs 64.5 lakh in total. And Rs 10.3 lakh is to be disbursed for the damage caused to a hospital owned by two people. The total number of properties listed under these 14 heads is 260, meaning the families that would get compensated are 260 in number or less, for one family could have incurred losses under two heads like Seema Kamble, 35, whose house and hotel were burnt to ashes in Bhima Koregaon on 2 January.

 Bhima Koregaon riots: Thousands suffered losses, but compensation ‘inadequate’, reached 260 families at most

Violence hit Maharashtra"s Bhima Koregaon on 2 January. Twitter @nishadwankhade

Seema’s husband, Babasaheb Kamble, 42, said the panchnama (recording of evidence during investigation) was conducted on the same day, and it says the properties have been reduced to rubble with black smoke coming out of it. "We had rented the plot and built the hotel on it around seven years back," he said. "We had spent around 1 lakh rupees. Seema ran the hotel, and I work as a truck driver. Our joint income provided for the household."

The house the Kamble family stayed in for 10-15 years was also a rented one, and now they have found another house in the same village for which they pay Rs 5000 per month. "We would get Rs 15,000 a month from the hotel," said Babasaheb. "The past seven months have been difficult. I had to borrow money from people to pay my son's school fees. We have not received a paisa as compensation yet."

Every year, on 1 January, tens of thousands of Dalits across Maharashtra gather at the war memorial of Bhima-Koregaon — 40 kilometres from Pune. It commemorates the historic victory of the British army, that had a significant Dalit contingent, over the Peshwas. This year, it was the 200th anniversary of the battle. Therefore, it was an even larger crowd, which was allegedly attacked by the radical Hindutvawadi upper caste mobs, in which several got injured and one person died.

The compensation amount was sanctioned by the state in August after the Pune district administration conducted panchnamas and submitted the report to the government.

Pune district collector, Naval Kishor Ram, said the disbursement of compensation has not concluded yet. "We received the money three weeks ago," he said. "The moment we got it, we started the process. The sub-divisional officer and tehsildar have been at it. The rest of the distribution will be done in a week or ten days.”

The sub-divisional officer, Gawande, said the administration has so far distributed 4.7 crores out of 7.97 crores. But several victims of the riots have said they have either been left out or the compensation they have received is inadequate.

Rekha Gayakwad, who had two of her mills vandalised, said she received only Rs 1 lakh, when the losses ran up to Rs 3 lakhs. "Both the mills were vandalised by mobs using stones on 2 January," she said. "My entire machinery and the shed were destroyed. How do I resurrect my work with part compensation?"

Mangal Kamble, 55, resident of Koregaon Bhima village, has testified to the inquiry commission that her eatery was burnt because she refused to participate in the bandh the upper castes in the village had declared on 1 January. The damages, she told the commission investigating the riots, were up to 5 lakh rupees. "My son declined to obey the orders (follow the bandh)," her testimony reads. "The next morning, when my visitors were having tea and snacks at the eatery, a mob of 20 barged in and started beating us up, and I was severely injured. My guests were forced to leave. The shop and the mandap we had installed were also vandalised. I was taken to a hospital in Hadapsar for primary treatment. On 2 January, when I came back to pay the person who had made decoration arrangements, a mob of 2,000 vandalised and burnt our house and shop at 11 am."

Mangal has only received 1 lakh rupees.

Gawande said the collector had appointed a committee that conducted panchnamas and evaluated losses to each and every individual. "Sanaswadi and Koregaon Bhima were two of the worst hit villages and we collected the entire list of those who had incurred damages, and the details of the damages," he said. "We had installed large flex boards telling people that the evaluation of losses is being done to encourage victims to come forward and tell the gram sabha, local talathi and police about their losses, in case the administration had missed a few."

But several of those who had participated in the Bhima Koregaon gathering had come from different parts of Maharashtra, and many were not aware that the panchanamas were being done. Babasaheb Tribhuvan from Aurangabad, whose house is 200 kilometres from Bhima Koregaon, saw his Bolero car being burnt by the mob. "I had come to Bhima Koregaon with two of my friends," he said. "They got down from the car after we reached and I moved on to find parking, which took a while. By the time I was done, I saw people coming back and they said stones are being pelted on the rally. I called my friends, and they too were heading back. We got in the car to escape, but got stuck in traffic at Sanaswadi village, where a mob started pelting stones. We abandoned the car to avoid injuries, and took shelter in a nearby shop. The mob then capsized the car, and set it afire."

Tribhuvan said he went back after eight days to file an FIR, but he does not appear in the list of beneficiaries. Nervous victims have approached activists, and are writing to the authorities to take a relook at the process.

On 5 September, Seema Kamble, wrote to the collector of Pune. "During the Bhima Koregaon riots, my home where I stayed, and the hotel I ran were burnt to ashes,” the letter reads. “The losses we incurred are over 5 lakh rupees but my name is being marginalised from the list of those supposed to be rehabilitated. It abets the persecution we have been facing for the past seven months. I urge you to look into the matter and provide financial assistance."

Updated Date: Sep 22, 2018 19:18:05 IST