Police had in first affidavit in SC named Hindutva leader as ‘active participant’, opposed bail
The sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Daund (Pune Rural police), Ganesh More, who had charged Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote with “actively participating” in Bhima Koregaon violence in an affidavit in the Supreme Court on February13, 2018, has filed a fresh affidavit before the Bhima Koregaon Commission in which Ekbote’s name is missing. The first affidavit had clearly blamed Ekbote for inciting violence and had opposed his bail application that led to his arrest. However, the second affidavit says that ‘a floating mob’ was involved in the violence and the police had to resort to tear gas when the mob went out of control.
Led by former Calcutta High Court Chief Justice JN Patel and Maharashtra’s Chief Information Commissioner Sumit Mullick, the Bhima Koregaon Commission resumed hearings in the case in Mumbai on Monday. About 200 affidavits have been filed before the commission by the police and the state government.
Mumbai Mirror accessed the affidavit filed by More, which is totally different from his earlier affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court. In the second affidavit, More said that at 10.30 in the morning on January 1, 2018 about 1,000-1,200 people had gathered at Vadhu Budruk near Samadhi of Sambhaji Maharaj, the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
“A few were carrying saffron flags and chanting mantras. More people started joining the crowd. So, I gave instructions over microphone asking the people not to stop at the venue,’’ he said. More said he also informed a group of police personnel, who were part of additional deployment, about the crowd, and asked to keep a watch on it. Then around 12.45 pm, he moved towards Bhima Koregaon.
“The crowd was leaderless and floating. They were coming in groups, creating ruckus, shouting slogans, using an abusive language and pelting stones,’’ More said in the affidavit. He further said, “Despite our warnings to disperse, they were throwing stones, pieces of lathis and whatever they could lay their hands on towards us and on the people with blue flags.’’ Finally, police had to resort to bursting tear gas shells to control the crowd, More said, “I tried to disperse the crowd at Bhima Koregaon, Vadhu Chowk, but it became more violent, and I had to order use of tear gas to control the mob,’’ he said.
Interestingly, in the first affidavit, a copy of which is with Mumbai Mirror, the same official had said, “It has been revealed that Ekbote had actively participated in a criminal conspiracy to execute the said offence and, therefore, the name of the accused was inserted in the present offence along with other accused.’’ It further said, “During the course of investigation, it has been found that transpired the active participation of the petitioner (Ekbote) in conspiring to commit the said offences which has put the social fabric as well as the law and order in peril which resulted in loss of crores of rupees damaging public and private property.”
The government through the affidavit had admitted in the apex court that Ekbote had distributed pamphlets that triggered the violence among two communities. The pamphlets were distributed to the local journalists at Sonai hotel near the Bhima Koregaon before the commemoration event started. The investigation agencies had even obtained call data records of Ekbote based on which he was held responsible.
The Supreme Court on March 14, 2018 rejected the anticipatory bail application of Ekbote, and he was arrested. However, on April19, 2018, Ekbote obtained bail from Pune District and Sessions Court.
Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar, who appeared before the Bhima Koregaon Commission as a lawyer on behalf of some victims, questioned the two affidavits. “It is highly objectionable that the same officer is giving two different affidavits. We will produce both the affidavits before the commission and ask them to verify which is true. In the Supreme Court, one cannot give a false affidavit because it invites criminal proceedings,’’ Ambedkar said.
When contacted, the commission’s secretary V Palnitkar confirmed that More has submitted the affidavit but refused to divulge the details.