Ekbote refuses to depose before Koregaon-Bhima commission

Pune: Right-wing leader Milind Ekbote, an accused in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case, appeared before an inquiry commission here on Friday, but did not depose, citing changed political circumstances among other things.

A commission headed by Justice (retired) Jai Narayan Patel is conducting an inquiry into the caste violence that broke out on January 1, 2018, near the Koregaon Bhima War Memorial in Pune district.

Following his plea, Ekbote, a pro-Hindutva leader, was discharged by the commission.

Ekbote submitted an application which stated that the police investigation was yet to be over and the charge sheet had not been filed, hence he would not like to depose.

"One of the accusations against me is spreading communal disharmony....which is a false and politically motivated allegation," the application said.

Further, "recent political developments in Maharashtra have indicated that whatever honest and impartial investigations carried out...by police authorities are likely to be "obliterated and /revisited" to ensure "safe passage for different hues of Marxists", Ekbote said in the application.

He was apparently referring to the BJP losing power in the state to a coalition of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.

"In the present scenario, I do not feel it is desirable to depose before the Hon'ble Commission at this stage to protect my interest in the court of law," he said.

Ekbote also alleged that organizers of `Elgar Parishad' conclave -- which was held in Pune on December 31, 2017, was responsible for the violence.

According to the Pune police, the conference had been supported by Maoists, and `inflammatory speeches' made there triggered the violence next day.

"The crime registered against me at Shikrapur police station alleged that I had instigated the violence...out of my alleged hatred against the Dalit community," Ekbote said, adding that he denied this charge "in toto" (completely).

No evidence was found against him, and the sessions court mentioned this while granting him bail after his arrest in March 2018, he added.

He was targeted because of his "accidental birth" in the Brahmin community and his nationalist views, he claimed.

Advocate Ashish Satpute, the commission's lawyer, said that after reading Ekbote's plea, the commission discharged him as a witness.

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