Koregaon-Bhima/ Sanaswadi/ Shikrapur: “The outsiders visiting the Memorial of Koregaon-Bhima burned down my shop and home. They threw something like petrol bombs at my closed shop. My shop and home are interconnected. With the help of my neighbours somehow I managed to get out from there with my blind daughter and wife,” said Sanjay Mutha, who runs a general store in Koregaon-Bhima village, spoke about the horror he and other villagers went through on Monday.
Mutha informed Sakal Times that he was at home when he came to know about the rioters torching vehicles and shops. Five minutes later he was informed that the mob had thrown petrol bombs on the shutters of his shop.
He said, “Within no time the fire spread. I have lost everything, my shop and house have been reduced to ashes. We don’t have clothes, food, water and shelter, our neighbours are helping us. I just don’t know how to start my life again.”
Rioting and looting
Locals said that most of the shops and hotels in Koregaon-Bhima village remained closed on January 1, anticipating a heavy inflow of people coming to visit Koregaon-Bhima memorial. But this year, many commercial establishments were looted by the rioters.
Another local, Dnyaneshwar Kumbhar who runs a hotel, has a similar story to tell.
He said, “Outsiders broke open the shutters of my hotel. They were moving in the direction of the Memorial. The entered after tearing apart one of the shutters and looted water, food, cold drinks, cash and cylinder. They smashed down two fridges and set fire to the hotel and bike. I lost Rs 4 lakh worth property in this arson.”
Rohini Kale, wife of a Mumbai policeman and a local of Koregaon-Bhima said, “When I started taking a video of rioters pelting stones, they started hurling abuses at me. Seeing them get violent I went back inside my house.”
Naresh Ram, a native of Hajipur in Bihar who has settled in koregaon-Bhima whose tyre shop has been burnt by rioters said ," Since last two years I am living here , but nothing of such sort has taken place. This time visitors came in large number and got violent , they were on rampage .My shop has also been burnt, my livelihood was dependent on it .I dont know what will happen next."
Heavy property loss
Eldin Francis, a native of Vasai and Lalit Kala Academy winner who is living in the area for last three years lost property worth Rs 50 lakh. Francis, a sculptor and painter, said, “The mob burned down my store that had 30 to 40 sculptures and around 100 paintings. These people burnt down everything but they took away the sculptures of Dr Ambedkar and Lord Buddha.”
Inadequate police action
Former sarpanch of Koregaon-Bhima, Vijay Gawane said, “Some State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) officials were involved in vandalism. Their actions have been recorded in CCTV cameras. The crowd marching towards Korgeaon-Bhima memorial included 7 to 8 lakh people, but the police force was not enough to handle them. Despite knowing beforehand about the tense atmosphere here, the police have not taken the matter seriously.”
Locals always peaceful
Ganesh Hargude of Sanaswadi village said, “The locals don’t fight with each other. This is for the first time that such riots are happening during the celebration of Koregaon-Bhima. The outsiders who have come here from different cities of the state and country indulged in violence and created havoc at Koregaon-Bhima, Sanaswadi, Kondhapuri and Shikrapur.”
Sandip Darekar, another local at Sanaswadi said, “The riots broke out at Koregaon-Bhima after some slogans were cried out by the visitors and the locals. Then the crowd which was marching towards the memorial started burning and damaging shops and vehicles. They were pelting stones at the houses. In order to break the flow of crowd, some youths at Sanaswadi pelted stones at them. The largest vandalism has been witnessed by the villagers of Koregaon-Bhima.”
Ganesh Darekar, another local from Shikrapur said, “This is for the first time such a thing has happened in this area. A crowd of more than five lakh, many armed with choppers and sticks were pelting stones at houses of the people in the stretch from Shikrapur to Koregaon-Bhima.”
Deepak Kesarkar, Minister of State for Home, during a press conference conducted at Shikrapur, said that loss of property can be compensated but loss of lives cannot be compensated.