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Bhima Koregaon violence: Testimony of witnesses begins; public prosecutor claims 'third group' was behind incident

A two-member judicial commission, set up to probe the Bhima Koregaon violence at Pune in Maharashtra, began its proceedings by recording evidence of witness. The state government’s special public prosecutor Shishir Hiray on Thursday claimed before the commission that the incident on 1 January could have been caused by a "third group".

Manisha Khopkar, 40, whose daughter was injured in the violence testified in front of the committee that people carrying saffron flags were not the ones to pelt stones at her and 48 others who travelled to Bhima Koregaon on 1 January. Khopkar, a graphics designer from Maharashtra's Thane district, said that a mob attacked them when their bus was stopped near Sanaswadi and were looking for shelter, reported The Wire. 

 Bhima Koregaon violence: Testimony of witnesses begins; public prosecutor claims third group was behind incident

File image of the Bhima-Koregaon agitation in Pune. 101Reporters

According to The Indian Express, Hiray in the cross-examination asked Khopkar if it is possible that stone pelting could have be caused by a third group other than people holding saffron and blue flags.

“Is it possible that the agenda could be to create conflict between two groups to spread anarchy?” Hiray asked.

To this, Khopkar said yes, stating that she was not making allegations against any group. Hiray also asked her if people carrying blue flags assaulted the group or threw stones at them. She confirmed that they did not and they just passed by.

Hiray then submitted before the commission that there was a possibility of a third group with a “different ideology” being behind the violence, the report added.

The two-member committee is headed by former Calcutta high court chief justice JN Patel and former state chief secretary, Sumit Mullick, as a member.

Khotkar was also asked by Niteen Pradhan, the defence lawyer of the prime accused Milind Ekbote, why she had never been to the place before and if it was a part of a larger conspiracy to cause commotion and disruption in the city.

To that, Khotkar said, “This was the 200th year. I was aware a large number of people visit the place. I too wanted to go there. We were only simple travellers who went there to pay our homage to those who died in the war,” reported The Wire.

Pradhan also asked her if the violence was initiated and instigated by Naxalites, which she denied. She told the commission she knows nothing about the Maoist and Naxal issue.

The rural police, under whose jurisdiction the riots transpired, is probing the role of two Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide based on 22 FIRs. The FIRs include the ones by social activist Anita Savale, and Suresh Sakat, whose daughter was killed in the violence. Ekbote was arrested in March and is currently out on bail. He was present at the commission hearing too. Bhide is yet to be arrested.

The Bhima Koregaon violence had occurred on 1 January 2018 at Koregaon Bhima village in Maharashtra's Pune district in which one person was killed. The government had set up a commission in February this year to inquire into the violence. The commission will probe the sequence of events leading to the violence, the people responsible for it, if there were adequate police personnel in and around Koregaon Bhima at that time, and suggest measures to avoid repetition of such incidents.

According to The Indian Express, Hiray has filed over 200 affidavits on behalf of the Pune Police, the revenue department, the state transport, Pune municipal corporation, medical wings, gram panchayats, zilla parishads and panchayat samitis, along with the victims of the violence that affected the Bahujan visitors at Bhima Koregaon on 1 January and the subsequent violence witnessed across the state on 2 and 3 January.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Sep 07, 2018 15:41:53 IST

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