A man with a criminal background, identified as Sanjay Haridas Waghmare (40) of a lesser-known outfit Ganimi Kava Yuva Seva Sangh, on Monday threw black colour on Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote on the Shivajinagar court premises. The incident took place after Pune rural police produced Ekbote before the special court in connection with the January 1 Koregaon Bhima violence case. Sometime after special judge Pralhad Bhagure extended Ekbote’s police custody by two days, Waghmare, a Dalit who had come to the court with his aides, threw black colour on Ekbote. He also tried to attack Ekbote. But the police nabbed him and later put him under arrest. Two more persons who allegedly helped Waghmare too were arrested.
Ekbote was arrested by the Pune rural police on March 14 after the Supreme Court rejected his plea for anticipatory bail. He was then remanded in police custody for five days. On expiry of his custody, deputy superintendent Ganesh More, the investigation officer, produced Ekbote before the court and sought his custody for five more days. The police told the court they were yet to recover a cellphone Ekbote used during the violence. Ekbote told the court he had lost it. The police, however, said Ekbote claimed to have lost the cellphone on January 2, but used it with a different SIM card.
Ekbote’s lawyer Amol Dange argued that the cellphone was not required as the police could get the call details from telecom companies. The court, however, granted the police custody of Ekbote till March 21. While the police were escorting Ekbote out of the courtroom, Waghmare threw black colour on him. Around 7 pm, it was posted on Waghmare’s Facebook wall that “Sanjay Waghmare, founder president of Ganimi Kava Yuva Seva Sang, blackened the face of Ekbote…” A video of the incident was also posted on Waghmare’s FB wall. ‘Ganimi Kava’ means guerrilla tactics.
The police said Waghmare was a resident of Upper Indira Nagar area and had a criminal record. He was earlier booked in a case of murder and illegal possession of arms, registered with the Shivajinagar police station in 2010, another case registered at the Swargate police station in 2007 and a forgery case lodged at the Bibvewadi police station in 2016.
He has been active in social and political circles for the past few years. His FB wall shows his photographs with several persons, including one with Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani at the residence of retired Justice B G Kolse Patil. Mevani had come to Pune as a speaker for ‘Elgaar Parishad’ on December 31 and stayed at the bungalow of Kolse Patil, another speaker. He also felicitated Mevani, in the presence of JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar and Shehla Rashid, during a programme organised last year in Wanavdi by Tehseen Poonawala of Congress party.
A case was also lodged against Mevani and JNU student Umar Khalid for allegedly creating communal disharmony by making provocative speeches at ‘Elgaar Parishad’ at Shaniwar Wada.
An FIR was registered against Ekbote along with Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide at the Pimpri police station by activist Anita Salve on January 2. Later, on January 3, another complaint was lodged against the duo at the Yerawada police station by activist Sushma Andhare. Both complaints were then transferred to the Pune rural police and a case lodged at the Shikrapur police station under sections of the IPC, the Arms Act and SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Besides Ekbote and Bhide, three more – Yogesh Gavhane and Ganesh Phadtare of Koregaon Bhima and Anil Dave, whose full name and address is not known – are named as accused in this case.