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.
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.
SAMBHAJI BHIDE AND MILIND EKBOTE:
THE TWO WHO BROUGHT MUMBAI TO A HALT
At the center of all the trouble Mumbai faced on Tuesday and the spectre of a complete shut-down it faces today are two men who could view the state-wide chaos they have caused as something of a trophy.
This is not the first time Sambhaji Bhide, 85, better known as Bhide Guruji, and Milind Ekbote, 56, have stirred the ‘us vs them’ pot. In 2008, Bhide was in national spotlight when his followers ransacked movie halls protesting against the release of movie Jodha-Akbar. In 2009, he brought his hometown Sangli to a standstill when a Ganesh pandal was denied permission to put up an artiste’s impression of the assassination of Adil Shah’s army commander Afjal Khan by Shivaji Maharaj.
Ekbote has 12 cases of rioting, trespassing, criminal intimidation, and attempts to spread enmity between two communities against him. He has been convicted in five of these cases. During his first term as a BJP corporator in Pune between 1997 and 2002, he had come to fisticuffs with a Muslim corporator over the construction of Haj house.
This time, Bhide and Ekbote have ranged the Hindutva forces against the Dalits in the state. They achieved this by desecrating the samadhi of a Mahar named Govind Gaikwad who is credited with performing Shivaji Maharaj’s son Sambhajiraje Bhosale’s funeral when nobody else would touch the body as it could have invited the Mughals’ wrath.
Bhide and Ekbote’s beef with the legend of Govind Gaikwad is that it’s a narrative spun by the Britishers. They believe that Sambhajiraje Bhosale’s last rites were performed by Marathas and the duo has demanded a governmentsponsored study to establish the facts.
The timing of their ransacking of the samadhi located in a village named Wadhu in Pune district was telling. They desecrated the Samadhi on December 29, knowing fully well that thousands of Dalits would gather on January 1at a nearby village called Bhima-Koregaon to celebrate the anniversary of the defeat of the Peshva army at the hands of British forces comprising mainly Dalit soldiers.
The riots that started in Bhima-Koregaon as Hindutva activists led a procession to the village, where Dalits had gathered for the annual commemoration of the battle, spread soon to Pune and have since engulfed the entire state. Though an FIR has been lodged against both Bhide and Ekbote, nobody is surprised that they have not been arrested yet. Both have deep links with the RSS and wield considerable clout within the ruling dispensation in the state and at the Centre.
In 2014, when Narendra Modi launched his campaign to become the prime minister, he visited Bhide at his house in Sangli and touched his feet. Later, at a public rally Modi declared: “I did not come to Sangli on my own, but I was given orders by Bhide Guruji to visit your city and here I am.”
Ekbote’s entire family is associated with the RSS. He was a BJP corporator in Pune from 1997 to 2002. Denied a ticket, he fought as an independent for a second term and won. He lost the corporation election in 2007 and to stay relevant floated Hindu Ekta Manch the same year. The Manch has since been at the forefront of anti-Valentine’s Day protests. In 2014, he contested assembly elections on a Shiv Sena ticket and lost. Ekbote’s sister-in-law Jyotsna Ekbote is a sitting BJP corporator in Pune.
Bhide has a huge fan following in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara, especially among the youth. Fighting fit even at 85, he walks barefoot, rides a bicycle around the town, travels in state-run buses, and doesn’t own a house. An M.Sc. in nuclear physics and a gold medalist, Bhide was a professor of physics at Pune’s Fergusson College before he joined the RSS as a pracharak. In the 1980s, he floated his own organisation called Shiva Pratishthan Hindustan to spread the message the life of Shivaji Maharaj. His talks on the lives of Shivaji Maharaj and his heir Sambhaji Maharaj often brim with hatred for a minority community.
Both Bhide and Ekbote till December 29 were not known to be anti-Dalit. Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasheb Ambedkar, expressed surprise at the duo’s involvement in the desecration of Gaikwad’s samadhi. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Ekbote said: “I am saddened by the inconvenience caused to Dalits due to rioting after their visit to Bhima-Koregaon and we condemn the act of rioting.” He added that his organisation considers Dr. Ambedkar and Lahuji Vastad (19th century Dalit warrior who fought against Brits) as icons and that a large number of Dalit activists are a part of Hindu Ekta Manch.
What do they say about actions being louder than words?
Over 200 buses (BEST, state transport, TMC) and 100 cars damaged
20 taxis and autos wrecked
84 Harbour Line services cancelled
7 people, including 4 cops, injured
100 detained over the violence
Eastern Express Highway was blocked for nearly 7 hours
Call for State bandh today