PUNE: The FIR which was filed against 85-year-old Sambhaji Bhide, Chief of Shiv Pratishthan and Milind Ekbote of Samasta Hindu Aghadi for their active presence during the Koregaon-Bhima riots on January 1 when lakhs of people had gathered at Vijay Stambh to celebrate 200 years of the battle there, has come under scanner because of its motivated intentions.
Based on a complaint filed by 39-year-old Anita Sawale, a resident of Kalewadi under Pimpri police station, on January 2, had registered zero FIR against Bhide and Ekbote. They were charged with offences under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly guilty), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 435 (mischief by destroying or moving, etc., a landmark fixed by public authority mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage), of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Arms Act and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocity) Act. Later, the FIR was transferred to Pune rural police for further investigation, as Koregaon-Bhima falls under their jurisdiction.
In her complaint, Sawale who hails from Beed, currently residing in Pune, identified herself as the member of an outfit name Bahujan Republican Socialist Party and mentioned that she ‘has seen Bhide and Ekbote along with others from her own eyes while they were rioting at Koregaon-Bhima and Sanaswadi on January 1’. However, a day later, she changed her statement in an interview given to an English daily.
When questioned, Bipin Bihari Singh, DGP (Prisons), who is also holding a post of law and order at the Police Headquarters in Mumbai, said, “The complaint seems to be motivated in nature. The riots took place in Koregaon-Bhima. What was the need to register a complaint at Pimpri police station? Why Pune police had to file a zero complaint which was later transferred to Shikrapur police station? It clearly seems to be motivated. But we don’t want to get into all this and will do a detailed investigation as per the police records and will take appropriate action.”
When questioned, former high court judge BG Kolse Patil about the intent of complaint, he said, “The complaint is not false but it is wrong as instead of their indirect involvement, it mentions their direct involvement.”
On questioning him further about the availability of evidence regarding the role of Bhide and Ekbote as instigators, he said, “The evidence is on social media and it seems to be enough. Many newspapers and magazines are reporting about it although the kind of evidence which you are questioning is not available with me.”
When contacted, Sawale’s phone was answered by her brother who denied commenting on the issue. However, despite making repeated calls to her, she was unavailable for comment and switched off her phone.
Mohammad Suvez Haque, Superintendent of Police, Pune (Rural), said, “We are doing the investigation from all angles, whether they were seen at the spot or someone has made calls to instigate the riots. After carrying out a thorough investigation, we will take necessary action against the people involved in it.”
When questioned him about the credibility of the complaint, he said, “Not only in this particular case, in any case after conducting the investigation if we find that complaint is fake, we close the case. However, if we find proof related to intentions behind the false complaint, we act according to the relevant laws and submit an application in court against the complainant and take appropriate action as per the court orders.”
When contacted, Nitin Chowgale, a Sangli-based member of Shiv Pratishthan and questioned him about the involvement of Bhide in the riots, he said, “Bhide Guruji doesn’t have any kind of direct or indirect involvement in the riots. Some people with political intentions are making false allegations against him. The last he visited Vadu Budruk was in 2007 during our trip to the samadhi of Sambhaji Maharaj.”
“On December 31, he went to attend a rally in Bhor. At 8 am, he left for Shirwal in a State Transport bus, from there he was picked up by a member of pratishthan in his car and went to Bhor. After attending the rally in Bhor, he returned to Sangli late in the night. On January 1, he went to meet former minister and NCP leader Jayant Patil to pay his condolences on the demise of his mother,” added Chowgale.
Despite making repeated calls, Ekbote he was unavailable for comment.