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Bhima-Koregaon inquiry commission: two-member panel gets fourth extension

Police personnel at the site of the clash in Bhima-Koregaon. File   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The two-member commission set up by the State government to probe the causes of the Bhima-Koregaon clashes and identify those responsible for the violence that occurred on January 1, 2018 has received another extension for three months.

According to advocate Ashish Satpute, a lawyer for the commission, the State Home Department had issued a letter (on November 8) granting the extension till February 8, 2020.

This is the fourth extension granted by the government which had appointed the commission, comprising retired Kolkata High Court Chief Justice J.N. Patel and former Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick, in February 2018 to probe the sequence of events leading up to the New Year’s Day violence in Bhima-Koregaon and the adjoining villages which left one person dead besides heightening social tensions across Maharashtra.

The commission has so far received nearly 500 affidavits — from victims, Dalit outfits, NGOs, right-wing groups, government and police officials — across Pune, Mumbai and Thane.

The commission has so far been granted two extensions of four months each and another of six months.

Ambedkarite parties have repeatedly expressed concern over the allegedly tardy progress of the commission. Outfits like the Republican Yuva Morcha have accused the BJP government of trying to shelter the perpetrators.

“The commission was supposed to submit its finding within four months. However, proceedings have dragged on for 18 months now. We hope that this fourth extension is the last such required by the panel to wrap up the probe,” said Republican Yuva Morcha’s State president Rahul Dambale.

He said leaders of fringe rightwing outfits like Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’, which had an affinity with the RSS, had not yet been investigated.

In its status report submitted to the government, the commission secretary said so far 17 witnesses had been examined and that eight had been partially heard. Also, it mentions more than 50 witnesses are needed to be called before the commission.

For several Dalit activists, the narrative of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, where Mahar community members fought under the Union Jack to allegedly defeat Peshwa Bajirao II’s numerically superior forces in 1818, signified a major step in the ongoing struggle against caste oppression and Brahminical domination.

While lakhs of Dalits converged on the victory pillar (Ranstambh or Jayastambh) each year to pay their respects, the celebrations in 2018 were marred by the clashes.

Since then, there have been two investigations into the affair. While the Pune rural police have lodged an FIR against rightwing Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’ and Milind Ekbote, naming them as the orchestrators of the violence, the Pune city police have conducted crackdowns across the country and arrested nine noted lawyers, writers, intellectuals and activists including advocate Surendra Gadling, professor Shoma Sen, poet P. Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj among others for their alleged links with proscribed Maoist outfits and for their roles in the “Elgaar Parishad” and the subsequent Bhima-Koregaon clashes.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2020 7:21:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bhima-koregaon-inquiry-commission-two-member-panel-gets-fourth-extension/article29936959.ece

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