Pune Police has now arrested 10 people in connection with an FIR filed against some organisers of the December 31 Elgaar Parishad, a “cultural” event which, according to police, is said to have contributed to the January 1 violence.
Only one of the arrested, Sudhir Dhawale of Republican Panthers Jatiantachi Chalwal, was directly involved with the organisation of Elgaar Parishad. The others were arrested on charges of sourcing money from banned Maoist groups towards this event or for “links” with banned Maoist organisations.
However, more than 100 people who were accused of participating in violence or conspiring and instigating crowds, and are named in several FIRs filed after the January 1 violence, are either out on bail or have never been arrested. They include two Hindutva leaders — Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote — against whom an FIR was filed on January 2 by Dalit activist Anita Salve. Salve claimed she had seen the two leaders instigating crowds to attack Dalits. On January 3, a Dalit, Sushma Andhare, filed an FIR claiming she had seen supporters of Bhide and Ekbote instigating crowds. The two FIRs were clubbed.
Acting on the two complaints, police arrested Ekbote, a former BJP corporator who had later switched to Shiv Sena, in March on charges of attempt to murder, hatching conspiracy and atrocities against Dalits. He was released on bail a month later in both cases.
One of the allegations against Ekbote was that he had held a meeting at Hotel Sonai near Koregaon Bhima on December 30. Police probe found that it was just a press conference during which a pamphlet was distributed to journalists. While granting bail to Ekbote, the court had observed that there was “nothing… to show” that “because of those pamphlets, workers of the accused (Ekbote) had participated” in the violence.
Bhide, an influential octogenarian leader, was not arrested. Police said they had not found any evidence that he was present in or around Pune that day, or had any role in the violence. On March 28, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis told the Assembly the same thing, adding that his government would not spare anyone found guilty of indulging in violence.
Bhide runs a Hindutva organisation called Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan from Sangli.