Bhima Koregaon case accused, poet and political commentator Sudhir Dhawale, has refused to depose before a commission that is investigation the matter, PTI reported on Saturday. Dhawale’s refusal came a day after another accused person, activist Surendra Gadling, said he would not testify before the commission.

Dhawale is the founder of Dalit rights organisation Republican Panthers, and a well-known poet, political commenter and the publisher of left-leaning Marathi magazine Vidrohi. He was among ten activists arrested in 2018 as part of the inquiry into the caste violence at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 of the same year. They were accused of masterminding the violence and of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Dhawale said that he did not have “faith and confidence” in the panel that was investigating the violence. In an affidavit last month, however, the activist had said that he was willing to testify “to bring certain facts about the case and the incident to light”.

The commission, in its order, stated that Dhawale be taken back to judicial custody as he opposed to the presence of former Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick in the commission as its “learned member”. “In view of the fact that Dhawale has refused to give evidence on oath before the commission as he has no faith and confidence in it, however, he is ready to give a statement, the commission does not want to record his statement,” the order read.

Dhawale had reportedly already filed an application with the commission for Mullick’s removal. The activist, in his petition, had said that Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar had also highlighted that Mullick was the state chief secretary. He had added that Ambedkar, the chief of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, had also pointed out that when the violence had broken out “police administration did not provide any kind of protection to Dalits from the attacks during the commemoration of the 200 years of Koregaon-Bhima battle”.

Gadling had on Friday refused to depose before the commission saying it would cause prejudice in his defence before the trial court where he was facing serious charges. The activist was then taken back to Yerwada Central Jail in Pune. He has been lodged at the prison since his arrest last year.

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