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Bhima Koregaon Judicial Commission suspends hearing WHY? – Burning Issues – Free PDF Download

The panel set up to inquire into the 2018 violence has suspended work till provision of suitable accommodation

The Bhima Koregaon Commission

  • On January 4, 2018, the State government requested the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court to nominate a sitting judge of the High Court as a Commission of Inquiry .
  • On February 6, 2018, the Chief Justice conveyed that as per the judgments of the Supreme Court it is not possible to recommend a sitting judge.
  • After three days, the Chief Justice forwarded three names of retired Chief Justices of High Courts.
  • On February 9, 2018, retired chief justice of the Calcutta High Court, Jay Narayan Patel and chief secretary of Maharashtra government, Sumit Mullick were appointed to head a Commission of Inquiry to make inquiries into the sequence of events that happened at Koregaon-Bhima on January 1 2018.

Role and Power of the Commission

  • The terms of reference of the Commission would be to inquire the causes and consequences of the events; whether any individual or group of individuals was directly or indirectly responsible for the said incident; the adequacy or otherwise of the planning and preparedness by the district administration and police machinery for maintaining law and order; whether the steps taken by the police in order to avoid recurrence of such incidents.
  • The Commission has the power to require any person to furnish information; power to enter or authorise to enter into any building or place and seize any books of accounts or documents; the commission to be deemed to be civil court and the proceedings before the commission be a judicial proceeding.
  • The commission shall conduct the inquiry and submit the report within four months from the date of notification and shall determine its headquarters and regulate its own procedure.

Functioning of the Commission

  • Although the Commission was appointed by a notification dated February 9, 2018, office posts like Secretary, Technical expert, clerk etc were created only by a notification dated March 31, 2018; but appointments were not made by the government immediately.
  • The Secretary, V.V. Palnitkar was appointed on April 28, 2018 who took steps to set up offices at Mumbai and Pune.
  • In the meantime, appointment of staff, issuance of notifications, calling affidavits from public and organizations, scrutiny of affidavits was undertaken which was all done by June 8, 2018.
  • The office premises at Pune required heavy repairs which were completed at the end of September, 2018.
  • On June 9, 2018 another notification was issued and time for submission of the report of inquiry was extended to October 8, 2018.
  • The last date for submission of affidavits was July 16, 2018. More than 500 affidavits were submitted and the Commission had to scrutinize them and prepare the gist of the affidavits.

Actual Work of the Commission

  • The actual work of recording evidence started only in September, 2018 and the time to submit report was extended from time to time.
  • Despite emphatically mentioning that the Commission may require not less than six months for 50 more witnesses, a notification was issued on February 11, 2020, the last extension of two months was given upto April 8, 2020.
  • The Commission held sittings in Mumbai from February 24 and 26 at Pune and March 9 to 14 and from March 23 and 28.
  • However after that the lockdown was announced owing to the COVID 19 pandemic and from April 2020 to August 2021 all hearings were suspended.
  • The Commission held sittings in Mumbai from February 24 and 26 at Pune and March 9 to 14 and from March 23 and 28.
  • However after that the lockdown was announced owing to the COVID 19 pandemic and from April 2020 to August 2021 all hearings were suspended.

Commission Hearings Suspended

  • A letter was sent by Mr. Palnitkar on June 21, 2021, October 23, 2021 and an email was sent on October 26, 2021 for providing suitable accommodation on emergency basis for an office in Mumbai to hold hearings there.
  • The letter was written on behalf of the Commission addressed to the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary.
  • It stated, if accommodation is not provided by October 29 the Commission would suspend its hearing.
  • However there was no response from the government so the Commission has suspended all future hearings till the Government takes any step.

What is Elgar Parishad Case? A quick recap

What is Bhima-Koregaon?

  • A small village in Pune district of Maharashtra,
  • Bhima-Koregaon is associated with an important phase of Maratha history.
  • On January 1, 1818, a Dalit-dominated British Army had defeated a Peshwa army, led by Peshwa Bajirao II, in Koregaon.
  • The battle attained a legendary stature for Dalits, who consider the win as a victory of the Mahars against the injustices perpetuated by the Peshwas.
  • The battle of Bhima-Koregaon was part of the third Anglo-Maratha wars and led to the end of Maratha rule and establishment of British rule in Western India
  • A pillar, known as Vijay Sthamb (victory pillar), was installed by the East India Company in memory of those who fought for them in the battle.
  • From 1927, after the visit of Dr BR Ambedkar, the Mahars started gathering at the Bhima-Koregaon memorial to celebrate the victory as the first time they were part of a victorious army in battle.
  • It is at this pillar that thousands of Dalits come to pay respect every year on January 1.

What is Elgar Parishad

  • Elgar Parishad a coalition of over 250 Dalit and other non-profit groups who came together to mark the 200th anniversary of the victory of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon.
  • The event was to be a cultural one with several performances and speeches planned.
  • 30,000 to 35,000 people gathered at the Shaniwar Wada in Pune to commemorate the day.

Timeline of events

  • Tensions had started simmering on December 29, 2017, the day Govind Gopal Mahar’s memorial was found desecrated.
  • The incident found mention in the Elgar Parishad, a big public conference organised by Dalit and Bahujan groups on December 31, 2017.
  • Police has alleged that inflammatory speeches were made in the event and that led to the violence next day.
  • On December 31, 2017, an event was held in Shaniwar Wada in Pune under the banner of Elgaar Parishad to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima.
  • On January 1, 2018, violent clashes broke out near Sanaswadi between two caste groups — Mahars and Marathas.
  • 28-year-old Rahul Patangale who was on his way back home to Sanaswadi was killed.
  • His family has said that he was not involved in the Elgar Parishad event.
  • A call for state wide bandh was given by Prakash Ambedkar and while Dalit groups blocked roads and protested, a 16-year-old Dalit boy was killed, allegedly because of caning by the police.
  • On 2 January 2018, Pune police filed an FIR against right wing activist Sambhaji Bhide and the founder ultra right wing group Shiv Pratap Bhoomi Mukti Andolan Milind Ekbote accusing them of instigating violence in Shaniwar Wadi.
  • In February 2018, the Supreme Court criticised the state government and probe agencies for the slow progress in their probe against Milind Ekbote, questioning the agencies’ claims that he was allegedly ‘untraceable’
  • They were accused of being conspirators of the Bhima-Koregaon violence.
  • They were accused of smuggling weapons and funding maoist activities.
  • The Pune Police also alleged that they found electronic evidence which showed that they were involved in a plot to assassinate Modi and wage a war against the country.
  • In August 2018 the police carried out another set of arrests simultaneously in several parts of the country alleging a maoist link to and arrested activists, intellectuals Sudha Bharadwaj, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves.
  • In the courts, the Pune police has claimed that the arrested activists had active links to the CPI (Maoist) which was engaged in destablising the country, and working against national security.

What is Vadhu Budruk

  • Police records show that a dispute regarding the history of Govind (Mahar) Gaikwad has been going on between Dalits and Marathas in the village for a few years.
  • Maratha residents of the village believe it was their ancestors, the Shivale Deshmukhs, who performed the last rites on Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, after he was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1689.
  • Vadhu Budruk also has a memorial of the Shivale Deshmukhs.
  • Marathas claim that as per historical documents, in 1733, nearly 44 years after death of Sambhaji Maharaj, his son Shahu Maharaj appointed three persons — Govind Gopal Dhagoji Megoji (Mahar), Bhikaram Gosavi and Dharmadhikari — to look after the samadhi of Sambhaji Maharaj in Vadhu Budruk.
  • While some history books say Govind (Mahar) conducted the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj, Marathas say no documented evidence is available to confirm this.

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