Mumbai: After seven months of its appointment, the two-member Judicial Commission on Wednesday finally commenced hearing the pleadings in the Bhima-Koregaon riots matter. The commission, which had issued summons to over a dozen of witnesses in the case, on Wednesday started examining the very first witness, who had filed a complaint with the Thane police after her daughter sustained injuries on January 1, in Pune.
The first witness – Manisha Khopkar, a resident of Thane, deposed before the commission, which comprises Chief Justice (retd.) J N Patel and Sumit Mullick, the former chief secretary of Maharashtra. In her deposition, Khopkar, who hails from Buddhist community, informed the commission that no one ‘forced’ her group to remove the ‘blue colored’ flags (Ambedkari flags) from their bus. She also informed that a group of young boys with saffron flags on their bikes, did not harm her or her group and instead another gang of miscreants pelted the stones. “I along with my group had been to Pune to commemorate the 200th victory of the battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1. As we reached near the Vijay Sthamb (war memorial), a crowd of young men came towards us. They asked us to go back as some miscreants are pelting stones,” Khopkar said.
“Soon we went in a corner with all the children and senior citizens and took shelter. Just a few minutes after this, some people started pelting stones at us from the nearby buildings. We sustained injuries and somehow managed to reach our bus,” Khopkar, a graphic designer, told the commission.
She further informed the commission that soon after getting into their bus, some people advised their group to remove the blue flags. “Some men came near our bus and advised us to remove the blue flags as miscreants might pelt stones on the bus. No one forced us to remove these flags instead we acted upon the advise,” Khopkar told the commission. “A group of nearly 20 boys, with saffron flags on their bikes passed our bus by shouting slogans in name of Shivaji Maharaj. They did not harm us instead there was another group of youngsters, who were carrying stones in sacks. They suddenly pelted stones on our bus and later set it ablaze,” Khopkar recounted.
While referring to this incident, Khopkar informed the commission that her daughter sustained some injuries in the incident. She also apprised the commission that she can identify one of the stone peltres, even today. She further explained the commission as to how she filed a FIR with the Thane police, after returning to her house from Pune. “Initially, the Thane police refused to take down our FIR and surprisingly detained some members of our group. The police, however, registered the FIR,” Khopkar further added.