The Congress Monday criticised the Maharashtra government for refusing permission to a protest march planned by a group of activists to demand the arrest of Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case. Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar had earlier planned the ‘Elgar Morcha’ for Monday, to demand the arrest of Bhide, one of the prime accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case. The Mumbai police yesterday refused permission for the protest march, saying it could cause inconvenience to people on a working day.
The activists of BBM wanted to take out the protest march from Ranubaug in Byculla. They were appealed to gather directly at the Azad Maidan in south Mumbai where they could stage their agitation, the police earlier said in a release.
Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil today said in the state Assembly that two people were named in the FIR in the Bhima-Koregaon case. One of them (Milind Ekbote) has been arrested while Bhide is absconding, he said. The Congress legislator accused the government of being biased in denying permission to Ambedkar and his associates to hold the protest march in Mumbai. “Why is the government trying to save the accused?” he asked.
“The government has denied permission to the protest march. The accused of Bhima-Koregaon violence, Sambhaji Bhide, is absconding. The government is protecting the accused and is insensitive towards the issue,” Vikhe Patil alleged. Jitendra Awhad (NCP) said Bhide has held three press conferences since January but the police is not able to trace him.
Following the denial of permission for the march, the protesters directly came to the Azad Maidan today. Minister of State for Home Ranjit Patil said in the Lower House that the government has taken note of the protest by Ambedkar at Azad Maidan and adequate security has been put in place in the area.
Meanwhile, Sanjay Kadam (NCP), the legislator from Dapoli, said a statue of B R Ambedkar was desecrated at Khed in Ratnagiri district yesterday. He alleged that the intention behind the incident was to create caste tensions in Ratnagiri. To this, the MoS for Home said the government has taken note of the incident and appropriate steps are being taken.
Notably, Ambedkar had on March 15 demanded that the state government arrest Bhide in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, failing which he will launch a protest. Though Hindu Ekta Aghadi leader Milind Ekbote has been arrested, the government is yet to take Bhide into custody, he had said.
A case was registered against Ekbote and Bhide, the head of the right-wing outfit Shiv Pratishthan Sansthan, for allegedly inciting the anti-Dalit violence that left a man dead near the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in Pune district on January 1. The incident took place during an event to commemorate the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle.
Subsequent protests had disrupted normal life in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra. The Pune rural police had earlier this month arrested Ekbote, after the Supreme Court turned down his anticipatory bail plea.