Bhima-Koregaon violence: Mass mobilisation had begun prior to anniversary day, witness tells panel

Mumbai: Days before the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, mass mobilisation of Dalits had begun, a witness confirmed on Wednesday. The witness informed the two-member commission that well before January 1, the day when Ambedkar followers were to pay homage to the ‘war memorial’ at Pune, members of the community were planning to visit Bhima-Koregaon in huge numbers.

The commission comprising Chief Justice (retd.) J N Patel and former chief secretary – Sumeet Mullick, appointed to probe the Bhima-Koregaon has been examining witnesses to decide on the ‘failure’ of the government in controlling the riots. Tukaram Gaware, a resident of Thane had stepped into the witness box and was cross-examined by special public prosecutor Shishir Hiray.

In his deposition, he said, “I have no idea if any campaign was being run asking people from the community to attend the 200th celebrations in huge numbers. But, several people from our locality had approached me and convinced me to visit Bhima-Koregaon in huge numbers.” Though he indicated that mass mobilisation had begun, Gaware, a retired police constable however chose not to give a straight answer if it had actually begun.

“I have not done any mass mobilisation by convincing members of the community to attend Bhima-Koregaon and neither do I know, who did the mass mobilisation,” Gaware told the commission. Gaware had visited Bhima-Koregaon this year with hundreds of his community members, to which he justified, “I have visited the place a few times in the past on January 1. Then, I had been there with only four to five persons. But this time, I visited with hundreds of people since it was the bicentennial anniversary of the battle.”

During his deposition, Gaware also informed the commission that despite having first-hand information of the riots at the war memorial site, he did not got his statements recorded. “I did not got my statements recorded as the police did not asked me for the same,” Gaware explained. The commission is likely to continue examining witnesses in the Bhima-Koregaon riots case, on Thursday.

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