Rioting Cases Against Sambhaji Bhide & Hundreds Of Right Wing Activists Dropped By Maharashtra Police, Says RTI
The Maharashtra government has withdrawn at least six riot cases against the right-wing leader and the main suspect in Koregaon-Bhima violence, Sambhaji Bhide, the response to an RTI has revealed. According to the reports, the rioting charges have been also dropped against hundreds of associates of Bhide’s outfit, Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, BJP and Shiv Sena supporters. However, the Maharashtra government has denied taking any such step.
According to Scroll, the RTI was filed by activist Shakeel A Shaikh. The RTI response stated that the cases against Bhide were filled in 2008 and 2009 in Maharashtra’s Sangli district. Later, he along with another right-wing leader, Milind Ekbote was also booked this year for allegedly instigating violence on the 200th-anniversary celebrations of the Koregaon-Bhima battle. On the day of the anniversary, clashes broke out between Dalit and Maratha groups in Pune near the war memorial at Koregaon-Bhima on January 1. On the allegations that Bhide and Ekbote had incited the violence, police had arrested Ekbote but Bhide was released from the police custody due to lack of evidence.
As per the RTI report, the six cases against Bhide and his organisation, Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan were filed in the two protests that involved rioting and stone-pelting in Sangali, about 375 km from Mumbai. The first protest was against a Bollywood movie Jodha Akbar in 2008, and another demonstration was against an artist, who had depicted Shivaji’s assassination in 2009.
The RTI also revealed that since June last year at least eight circulars were issued by the Maharashtra government for withdrawal of cases against Mr Bhide, leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena and thousands of party workers.
Police deny the allegations
The Maharashtra police said that no charges against Sambhaji Bhide and others had been withdrawn in cases concerning Koregaon-Bhima violence case. According to the police, the three of the six cases that are dropped against the 85-year-old related to the violence after the release of film Jodha Akhbar in 2008. In the protest, the supporters of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and others resorted to violence. The protesters shouted slogans outside a multiplex in Sangli and threw stones at cops. The protestors also damaged buses and vehicles, including a police van, as reported by NDTV.
The police said that the media reporting on the case being disposed against Bhide in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence is wrong. The Pune (Rural) Superintendent of Police, Sandeep Patil said that there is no question of cases being removed as the police had not filed any charge sheet against Bhide in connection with the Bhima Koregaon incident till now.
“At this stage, there is adequate evidence to frame charges of criminal conspiracy and rioting against Milind Ekbote but no evidence against Sambhaji Bhide,” said Patil as reported by the Scroll.
When asked about why there was a delay in filing the charge sheet, he said that the investigation officer needs to take a final decision and that is why he needs some time. Earlier in August, Patil had told the Scroll that charge sheet would be filed within two weeks.
While talking about the removed cases Maharashtra’s Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the charges were removed in accordance with the government resolution (GR) which was issued by the previous Congress-NCP government. “The GR says that cases of protests and movements initiated for the public can be withdrawn,” he said.
According to the RTI activist, in the last one year, some 41 cases have been disposed of by the Maharashtra Government. Out of which 14 cases were dropped against BJP MLA’s and Shiv Sena leaders and their supporters. He added that if these cases had not been withdrawn against Bhide, the Koregaon-Bhima violence could have been avoided.
Five activists arrested in the Koregaon-Bhima violence
On August 28, Maharashtra police arrested five prominent activists, lawyers and writers after their houses were raided. Among the five arrested were-Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha and Arun Ferreira. The police arrested these five people on a myriad of charges. Reportedly, the searches and detentions were carried out under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Sections 153A, 505(1)(b), 117, 120(b) and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.