Pune: Raising slogans such as 'Bhide Guruji nirdosh hain', 'Milind Ekbote nirdosh hain', 'Maage ghya, maage ghya, khote gunhe maage ghya' (Withdraw false cases against Bhide Guruji and Milind Ekbote), a strong crowd of over 10,000 supporters of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan held a sit-in protest in support of their leader Sambhaji Bhide on Wednesday at the riverside area near the Omkareshwar temple.
Men, women and the elderly thronged in large numbers, but youngsters dominated.
Addressing the protesters, former BJP MP Pradip Rawat said, "Anyone who believes in Hinduism cannot be against the Dalits. Some people, for their political interest, have levelled false allegations against Guruji that he instigated or was involved in Koregaon-Bhima riots. We demand withdrawal of the case against him. The woman who has filed a false complaint against him, should be interrogated. Police officials who have done a shoddy investigation in this matter should be arrested."
Speaking to the media, Rawat said, "Everyone believes in Dr BR Ambedkar's philosophy. He was a great man and the Father of our Constitution. We all have faith in the Constitution made by him but his grandson, whom some call as Prakash, thinks he has become the ultimate authority to decide who is accused and who is innocent. He feels he will decide the fate of people by making false allegations. But the laws in our country don't work like that."
The RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Samast Hindu Aghadi supported the protest.
Janabai Phatangale, mother of Rahul Phatangale who was killed during the Koregaon-Bhima riots, said, "I have come here to support this protest and I want justice for my son. The real culprits who orchestrated Koregaon-Bhima riots have not been arrested. They are responsible for this unrest in the State and should be arrested."
Sanjay Jadhar, President of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, said, "We have submitted the application with our demands for withdrawal of the FIR against Bhide Guruji. We have also demanded a probe about the people who have filed the fake complaint against him and levelled false allegations."
"District Collector Saurabh Rao told us they are investigating the connection between Prakash Ambedkar and Naxal sympathisers and will take necessary action against him, if found guilty," added Jadhar.
Desai supporters' presence
Supporters of Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhanajay Desai took part in the protest, displaying posters bearing Desai's pictures. They demanded his release. He was arrested in Mohsin Shaikh murder case.
Making way for ambulance
Despite the gathering being 10,000 strong, members of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan made way for an ambulance passing through the protest site in less than a minute.