A criminal case was filed on Tuesday against two pro-Hindutva leaders, Milind Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi, and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, under charges of orchestrating violence during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on Monday.
Bhide (85) is a resident of Sangli, while Ekbote (60) lives in Pune. Both of them enjoy a sizeable following across Maharashtra, especially among the youth. On Tuesday, several leaders, including Dalit leader and Bharatiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar, accused the two of hatching a conspiracy to trigger the violence, which had led to the death of a 30-year-old man.
The FIR was registered at Pimpri police station against Bhide, Ekbote and their supporters, and was later sent to Pune Rural Police, which has Koregaon Bhima under its jurisdiction. The complaint was filed by social worker Anita Ravindra Salve (39), a member of the Bahujan Republican Socialist Party.
In her complaint, Salve claimed that when she and a friend reached Sanaswadi near Bhima Koregaon on Monday, some people snatched their flags away and burnt them, and they were also assaulted. “I have seen that the accused (Bhide and Ekbote and their supporters) were doing all this… stones were being pelted and police were also being attacked,” she stated in her complaint.
A Pune Rural Police official said that a probe has been launched into the allegations made by Salve. Bhide, known as Bhide Guruji across Maharashtra, is an ardent follower of Chhatrapati Shivaji and is followed by thousands of youths. A post-graduate in physics, Bhide had taught briefly at a college in Pune before starting his organisation. Bhide and members of his organisation have been booked in connection with several cases earlier.
Ekbote, a former corporator, has faced several cases of breach of preventive orders. Members of his outfit are also alleged to have intercepted hundreds of vehicles carrying cows.
Both of them have been booked under IPC sections on attempt to murder, rioting and relevant sections of the Prevention of Atrocities Act. In a statement on Tuesday, Ekbote condemned the violence in Koregaon Bhima, and claimed that the case against him was completely false. He said people were being “deliberately misled to create communal tension”.
Meanwhile, Awinash Marakale, a member of Bhide’s organisation, said, “In Samast Hindu Aghadi, we have people from different communities…”. He added, “Bhide Guruji has been falsely implicated and has nothing to do with the issue”.
Meanwhile, a complaint application was received at Deccan police station against newly-elected Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and student leader from JNU Umar Khalid, who were both speakers at the Elgaar Parishad held in Shaniwarwada on December 31, for allegedly inciting people through their “provocative speeches”. Akshay Bikkad (22) and Anand Dhond (25) have filed the complaints, demanding registration of criminal offences against them, on charges of “promoting enmity”. Senior Inspector Ajay Kadam said the application would be forwarded to Vishrambag police station.