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12 more arrested in Koregaon Bhima violence

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(G.N.S) Dt. 09
Pune
The district police yesterday arrested 12 more people, including three minors, in connection with the January 1 caste clashes that broke out in and around Koregaon Bhima village in which one person was killed.
Police had earlier arrested 17 people in connection with the incident.
The violence occurred during the bicentennial event to commemorate the Koregaon-Bhima battle in which British imperial forces comprising Dalits had defeated the army of Peshwas.
Dalits view the historic battle as the defeat of “casteist” Peshwas who had represented the Maratha empire.
On January 1, several vehicles, shops, houses were vandalised and torched by mobs in areas near Koregaon Bhima. Lakhs of Dalits visit the Koregaon Ranstambh (victory pillar) every year to commemorate the Koregaon Bhima battle.
“On Monday, we arrested 12 people, including three minors, for allegedly vandalising vehicles on road in villages adjoining Koregaon Bhima,” said Pune district SP Suvez Haque.
He said the arrested people belonged to both the communities (Maratha and Dalit).
Haque said the police traced the vandals through CCTV footages and video recordings of the January 1 incidents. “Police are analysing CCTV footages and recordings available to identify the anti-social elements involved in the violence,” he said.
During the violence, one Rahul Phatangale was killed near Sanaswadi. Shikrapur police station senior inspector Ramesh Galande today said that the investigation was on the right track in Phatangale case.
Police yesterday booked six members of the Kabir Kala Manch, a radical cultural group, for making “provocative” remarks during the Elgaar parishad (conference) held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, a day ahead of the Koregaon Bhima violence.
The conference was attended by Dalit MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mevani, JNU student leader Umar Khalid, (late) Rohit Vemula’s mother Radhika Vemula, and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar.
Shaniwarwada, a historical fortification in the city, had remained the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire until 1818.
The police already booked Mevani and Khalid for making “provocative” speeches and creating a rift between two communities. The Pune Rural Police had registered an FIR against right-wing leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’ under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and under various sections of the IPC including attempt to murder in connection with the caste clashes. In the wake of the incident, various Dalit organisations observed a statewide bandh on January 3 which took a violent turn.
16 juveniles arrested during Maharashtra bandh released on bail
Sixteen boys who were arrested by the Govandi police during the protests that took place last Wednesday during the Maharashtra bandh have been released on bail. Last week, Dalit groups had called for a shutdown in Mumbai following anti-Dalit violence during the commemoration at Bhima Koregaon village in Pune district the previous day.
Every year, 1 January is celebrated as the day that the 500-odd Mahar contingent of the East India company defeated the better prepared and larger Peshwa army in 1818.
The boys, between the ages of 14 and 17 years, were arrested on various charges relating to assault and causing harm and were remanded to the observation home in Dongri. On Saturday evening, all sixteen were granted bail on furnishing a bond of Rs 15,000 and the condition that they attend monthly counselling at the home with the non-profit Prayas.
Several were also released on the condition that they wouldn’t return to Govandi – the area where they had allegedly committed the violence – until the chargesheet was filed.
Sunita Ghadge, the lawyer who defended all 16, had argued before the Juvenile Justice Board that the boys were innocent and had been bystanders to whatever was happening when the police swooped in to make the arrests. “They got arrested in the confusion,” she said.
She claimed they did not have any role in the clashes, but that even so, counselling would be a good measure to raise issues related to identity and discrimination.
“We don’t know anything about the law or what to do in such situations,” said the mother of one of the boys, who works as a domestic helper. “He had gone out to meet friends when this happened. He has never been to a protest or been involved with anything like this in the past.”
The woman along with her taxi driver husband had to give up a few days of earnings to sort out the situation, arrange for a bail bond and other formalities. The father seemed particularly distressed, and helpless. “We are ordinary people,” he said. “What will happen now?”
Parents of another boy claimed that he had simply been picked up because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Earlier in the week, some family members including their son had gone to Bhima Koregaon for the annual commemoration of the 1818 battle, but the parents said he had not himself committed any offence during the bandh in Mumbai.
“My son simply stepped out of the house,” said the mother. “We only found out much later that they had arrested many people, including my son.”
They claimed he had been injured during the incident, possibly during the police lathi charge and was taken to the hospital and treated following his arrest, after which he was brought to the Dongri observation home.
The woman, a daily wage labourer, said the neighbours had cast aspersions on his upbringing. “People in the neighbourhood have been talking since the incident,” she said. Fourteen boys were let off on Saturday itself, with the remaining two let off on Monday following some pending formalities.
Last Wednesday, protests took place in Chembur, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli and other areas, with traffic brought to a halt and train services delayed. More than 100 people were arrested across Mumbai in total, according to reports.
During the protests, hundreds of youths reportedly swooped onto the roads in eastern suburbs asking shops, restaurants and commercial establishments to close down. They staged roadblocks at several locations by squatting on the road for hours. Children were also seen blocking bikes and cars trying to get past the blockade and participating in stone-pelting incidents. At places like Panjrapol, teenage girls joined women as they took the roads and stopped vehicles from passing.
A 16-year-old boy, who was part of the mob blocking a road during the Maharashtra bandh in Nanded city, was crushed to death while escaping police. The incident occurred in Hadgaon area of Nanded in Marathwada region on Wednesday afternoon when protesters were blocking a road.
Security outside the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi was also scaled up as protests spread to Delhi as well. Students belonging to All India Students Association (AISA) demanded judicial probe against those responsible for the violence.

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