Holding Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and top police officials responsible for failing to prevent the January 1 Bhima-Koregaon clashes, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) chief and lawyer Prakash Ambedkar on Tuesday demanded that Mr. Fadnavis and other officials be examined as witnesses before the two-member inquiry commission set-up to probe the clashes.

Representing a witness, M.N. Kamble, who had filed a petition in this regard, Mr. Ambedkar said that the Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick (who was part of the inquiry commission), Guardian Minister Girish Bapat, the State Director General of Police, and the heads of the intelligence sections among others must appear before the inquiry commission to explain why they had failed to prevent the violence despite several intimations of the same.

“One of the terms of reference for this commission is to establish the failure of the government machinery and secondly find out who were responsible. If failure must be established then all top authorities from the Chief Minister downwards must be examined and their statements recorded. Otherwise, the truth will never come out,” said Mr. Ambedkar, who was the grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

He further demanded that written and audio records in form of official government documents, police records, police diaries, minutes of government meetings after the clashes and the Chief Minister’s directives to the police and administrative authorities with regards to the clashes be presented before the commission.

“There was lot of tension in the lead-up to the actual clashes. Hence, the sequence of events from December 20 to January 1 including the Elgaar Parishad, and the riots of January 1 and the government and police actions thereafter need to be examined thoroughly,” Mr. Ambedkar submitted.

Instead, he said that the government was going in the opposite direction with its investigation, with Chief Minister Fadnavis and the probe agencies casting aspersions on the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ of December 31 and erroneously linking it with the riots that erupted the next day.

Mr. Ambedkar further submitted the report prepared by a coordination committee set-up on January 9 and comprising of leaders from major Dalit outfits to assist the police investigations.

He noted that the report clearly proved that the Bhima-Koregaon incident was not a riot, but ‘a pre-planned attack’.

On December 29, a fierce dispute had broken out between upper caste Marathas and Dalits in the village of Vadhu Budruk (around 4 km from Koregaon -Bhima) over a rudimentary board erected near the tomb of Govind Ganapat Gaikwad, a Dalit from the Mahar community.

The Dalits had accused the Marathas of wantonly desecrating the ‘samadhi’ of Gaikwad, who is held by the Mahars to have performed the final rites of the slain Maratha King Sambhaji (Shivaji’s son). A complaint was filed by Dalit activists against 49 persons of Vadhu Budruk village under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, for damaging the board.

Recounting the Vadhu Budruk dispute, Mr. Ambedkar further pointed out that five Gram Panchayats, including those of Bhima-Koregaon and Vadhu Budruk, had called for a shutdown on January 1 to protest against the dispute and the complaints lodged against them by the Dalit community.

“Why were such events not taken seriously despite several warnings about eruption of possible violence on January 1. At precisely 9:05 a.m. that day, a mob assembled at Vadhu Budruk and later attacked the humungous congregation gathered at Bhima-Koregaon to celebrate the bicentenary of the 1818 battle,” Mr. Ambedkar submitted.

In response to Mr. Ambedkar’s submissions, the commission headed by Justice Jai Narayan Patel, former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court said that if the commission felt the need to summon the Chief Minister, it would do so should the occasion arise.

“However, it would be improper to direct Mr. Fadnavis to appear before the commission at the present moment,” said (retd.) Justice Patel.

Courtesy: The Hindu