Bhima Koregaon Violence: 19 year old Dalit witness found dead in well near Pune

A 19-year-old Dalit girl, whose house was burnt in the Bhima Koregaon violence in Maharashtra, was found dead in a well near her house on Sunday morning. She was a key witness of the violence.

A senior police official said that a day before her body was found, her family had registered a complaint that she was missing.

Puja Sakat was a witness to the violence during the commemorative march in January when thousands of Dalits had gathered at Bhima Koregaon near Pune in Maharashtra.

Her family alleged that she was under immense pressure to withdraw her statement against the two men whom she had named as culprits in her statement to the police after the violence. Her relatives had complained about threats and harassment from local people.

Her brother alleged, “We informed the Shikrapur police after Pooja went missing on Saturday afternoon. The well, where her body was found, is about 2 km from Bhima Koregaon. We suspect that she may have been compelled by local villagers to end her life, or she may have been pushed into the well.”

Based on the family’s statement, the police suspect her death to be a case of suicide. They have registered a case of abetment to suicide under IPC section 306 and offences under the Scheduled Castes And Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Puja had gone missing on Friday. Her body was found on Sunday morning near a rehabilitation centre for those who were affected in the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Suvez Haque, a police officer, told NDTV that the family had never complained about the teen being under pressure to withdraw her statement in the case. But he said the family had blamed her death on people with whom they had a legal dispute. The police are also investigating whether she committed suicide because of the delay in compensation.

The two men who have been arrested were allegedly in a dispute with the teen over construction on a plot belonging to her family, a top Maharashtra Police official said.

Sakat family’s house was burnt during the violence, and the family is living in a rented house since then, the police officer said.

The family had been trying to get compensation and relief from the government to rebuild their house.

The girl’s house was situated where clashes broke out on January 1 when thousands of Dalits gathered to mark the 200th year of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon despite objections by right-wing outfits.

One person was killed and property worth crores of rupees was damaged in the violence. Milind Ekbote, a right-wing leader, was arrested for allegedly instigating the violence.

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