The Maharashtra Government has received a proposal from the police to receive sanction for filing the official chargesheet relating to the violence that took place at Bhima Koregaon on January 1st, 2018. Hindutva leaders, Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide are named accused in the chargesheet. The decision to sanction the charge sheet is yet to be made.
On Jan 1st, while lakhs of Dalits gathered in Perne Village to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon victory against the Peshwas, many were attacked by a group, who were chanting slogans of their leaders, Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, as per the reports of witness, Anita Sawale’s FIR. One person was killed and several others injured.
Several eye-witnesses supported the claim that the violence was planned by the two leaders in advance as a retaliation to the clash between Mahars and Marathas in Wadhu Budruk, which took place a week ago.
The day after the violence, an FIR was filed against Bhide and Ekbote by Sawale, accusing them of having instigated the violence on the 1st. The FIR was filed at the Pimpri Police station under the jurisdiction of the Pune Police. They were booked under sections 153 and 249 of the IPC as well as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The case was then transferred to the Shikarpur Police department. The congregation was under their jurisdiction.
Since then Bhide has not been arrested or called for questioning. Ekbote however was arrested on March 14th for the case, after the Supreme court had admonished the police and state in their failure to arrest him. The press conferences he had held in Pune city and Hotel Sonai in Koregaon Bhima area on December 30th, as well as the pamphlet circulated in the hotel conference, have been connected with instigating the violence on January 1st. Ekbote was granted bail by a Pune sessions court on April 4th. However following this he was detained in another related case, filed by Nitin Shivaji Lakade, an assistant police officer who was injured during the violence. Ekbote received bail and was released on April 17th.
In the case of Bhide, the government gave him a free pass, with the then CM Devendra Fadnavis mentioning that there was no evidence against him. Sawale had questioned the impunity given to Bhide, stating that “if Ekbote had been arrested, so should have been Bhide”. Sawale has also talked about a viral Facebook post that ties Bhide and members of his organisation to the violence that took place on the 1st. The post was circulated on 30th December. In an article by Caravan Magazine, several eye-witnesses supported the claim that the violence was planned by the two leaders in advance as a retaliation to the clash between Mahars and Marathas in Wadhu Budruk, which took place a week ago.
Both leaders currently walk free today. State Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh on speaking to the press, mentioned that the proposal to sanction the charge sheet is yet to be decided by the State Government. Currently, several activists and intellectuals have been arrested under UAPA for their alleged involvement in the Elgaar Parishad case. The case was filed by a Pune businessman who claimed that the speeches that took place during the event were responsible for instigating violence on the 1st.