PUNE: The Additional Sessions Court acquitted 68 people on Friday who were earlier charged with ransacking Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in January 2004.
The Deccan police had arrested 72 people associated with Sambhaji Brigade for barging into the premier institute and ransacking the library and destroying thousands of rare books, manuscripts, old photographs, artefacts and taking away historical artefacts. However, during the trial which went on for 13 years, the public prosecutor failed to prove the involvement of these persons booked for the offence which took place on January 5, 2004.
On the night prior to this attack, Sambhaji Brigade’s 100-150 workers hailing from Kalamb, Osmanabad, Gevrai, Beed, Pandharpur had stayed at a guesthouse near Indapur before launching an attack on this institute. On the next morning, the mob wedging sticks ransacked Tata Hall, library, Prakrut and manuscript sections in the institute. During the attack, peon Narsinh Navalu Thopate and others were beaten up. Many rare idols and statues were stolen including Mundkata Ganesh idol, rare pictures of Nizam and few brass artefacts. The institute claimed that the damage worth Rs 1.30 crore was reported. The Deccan police had slapped several sections pertaining to rioting, assault, hurting religious sentiment, unlawful assembly, section 120 of Bombay Police Act and defacement of public property act.
The workers of Sambhaji Brigade had claimed that the attack was a revenge about the derogatory remark published in the book written by American Author James Laine. They had alleged that the scholars from the premier institute had provided wrong information to James Laine who was researching for his book Shivaji: A Hindu King in Islamic India, a biographical account of the Maratha warrior.
The brigade had even claimed that due to this information, Laine had made derogatory remarks about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s parentage in his book. The attack was planned on the institute as the scholars hailed from this institute. Defence Counsel Advocate Milind Pawar said that the public prosecutor neither could establish the identity of the people involved in the incident nor whether the accused were associated with Sambhaji Brigade. The public prosecutor had failed to prove the person who hatched a plot and what was the exact damage, Pawar said.