Bhartiya Baudh Sangh, a Delhi-based Buddhist outfit, has announced an award for Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote. The award, instituted in memory of BJP stalwart and late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will be given to Ekbote for his “social activities for welfare of Dalits”.
A prominent name in the Gauraksha movement in Maharashtra, Ekbote was arrested last year for allegedly instigating violence in Koregaon Bhima, but was later released on bail. Bhante Sanghpriya Rahul, national president of the Bhartiya Baudh Sangh, confirmed that the outfit was going to confer the ‘Atal Smruti Samman – 2019’ award on Ekbote.
When asked about the charges against Ekbote in the Koregaon Bhima violence case, Rahul said the Hindutva leader had not been found guilty in a court of law. “He has done lot of work for samajik samarasta (social equality). For several years, he has been performing various social activities for the welfare of Dalits and other sections of society,” Rahul told The Indian Express.
A letter issued to Ekbote by Bhartiya Baudh Sangh mentions that he will receive the award on December 24, on the birth anniversary of Vajpayee, from a Union minister.
The letterhead of the outfit named its patrons as Suresh Pasi, Uttar Pradesh minister and BJP MLA, Krishna Raj, former Union minister of state of agriculture and farmers’ welfare, and Satyanarayan Jatia, BJP leader and member of Rajya Sabha.
Ekbote said he had received Bhartiya Baudh Sangh’s letter on Monday. “I have agreed to accept the award. Bhartiya Baudh Sangh has considered my work for the cause of Dalits. For example, when I was a corporator in 1996, it was due to my efforts that a hostel in the name of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was constructed in Shivajinagar by the Pune Municipal Corporation. Every year, we mark October 14, the day when Dr Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, as ‘Rashtriya Ekatmata Din’…,” he said.
The Hindutva leader added, “It is clear that I was falsely implicated in the Koregaon Bhima violence case.”
Both Ekbote and fellow Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide were accused of instigating the violence that broke out in Koregaon Bhima on January 1 last year. They were booked under sections of the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, as the complaint was filed by a Dalit woman.
Police have never arrested Bhide, citing lack of evidence. But Ekbote’s anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the Supreme Court and he was arrested by Pune Rural Police in March last year. About a month later, he was released on bail.