3 rioting cases against Bhide dropped, remains accused in Koregaon-Bhima case

Monday, 1 October 2018

The Maharashtra government has withdrawn three cases of rioting against right-wing leader Sambhaji Bhide, but he remains an accused in the violence at Koregaon-Bhima near Pune.

Mumbai/Pune: The Maharashtra government has withdrawn three cases of rioting against right-wing leader Sambhaji Bhide, but he remains an accused in the violence at Koregaon-Bhima near Pune.

The rioting cases withdrawn are related to a demonstration against Bollywood film 'Jodha Akbar' in 2008. These were registered against Bhide in western Maharashtra's Sangli district, a response to an RTI query has revealed.

Bhide and his supporters were booked for holding violent protests against the film, it said.

Besides, criminal cases filed against nearly a dozen elected representatives and political leaders, most of them from the ruling BJP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, have also been withdrawn, according to the response given to a query filed by RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh. The government has, however, clarified that the case registered against Bhide in connection with the violence at Koregaon- Bhima village was still being inquired.

In his application, Shaikh had sought to know the number of cases withdrawn in Maharashtra since 2008 against political leaders and individuals.

"The reply given by the state home department says the present BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra has withdrawn 41 cases in the last one year. "Of these 41 cases, 14 cases were withdrawn against elected representatives, mostly from the BJP and the Shiv Sena," Shaikh said. Bhide (85), a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist who heads the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, is accused of instigating the violence at Koregaon-Bhima on January 1.

The violence took place during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Koregaon-Bhima battle in which forces of the East India Company defeated Peshwa's army. Dalit leaders commemorate the British victory, as it is believed that soldiers from the Mahar community were part of the East India Company's forces. The violence had triggered an outrage among Dalits who had called a state-wide bandh on January 3.

Shaikh said politicians and lawmakers cases against whom have been withdrawn include Raju Shetti (MP), Sanjay Ghatke (Sena), Neelam Gorhe (Sena), Milind Narvekar (Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's personal assistant), Sanjay Bala Bhebhde (BJP) and Prashant Thakur (BJP).

Cases filed against Vikas Makari (BJP), Anil Rathod (Sena), Abhay Chhajad (Congress), Ajay Chaudhary (Sena), Dilip Yalgavkar (BJP), Ashish Deshmukh (BJP) and Kiran Pawaskar (MLC) were also withdrawn, the RTI activist said. Justifying the government's decision, Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar said withdrawing cases is an old practice. "Firstly, the withdrawal of cases against Bhide and his supporters in the 'Jodha Akbar' incident should not be linked with the Koregaon-Bhima case.

The Koregaon-Bhima case is still under inquiry and action will be taken against all the accused if found guilty by the investigating agency and court," he told a television channel. The minister said, "So far, the question of withdrawal of cases against political people is concerned, usually the state government drops cases that it feels will not come to their logical conclusion." The Pune Police also asserted that there was no link between the cases filed against Bhide in Sangli and the one related to the Koregaon-Bhima violence.

"The cases against Bhide that were withdrawn were old cases in Sangli and have nothing to do with the Koregaon-Bhima violence," Superintendent of Police, Pune (rural), Sandip Patil said. "The investigation in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case, in which Bhide and (Hindu Ekta Aghadi leader) Milind Ekbote are accused, is in progress," the officer said. Patil said the Pune Police had in August arrested five activists while probing an alleged Maoist link to a meeting, 'Elgaar Parishad', held in Pune on the eve of the violence in Koregaon-Bhima. "We are waiting for the development in that case, that is why (filing of) charge-sheet in our (Koregaon-Bhima) case is pending," he added. 

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