Grim charges, but charade on Bhide and Ekbote

Mumbai: The Pune police, on prodding from the Maharashtra government, swooped down on five activists on August 28, alleging they were responsible for the Elgar Parishad and Bhima Koregaon violence.

However, the prime accused — Manohar Bhide and Milind Ekbote — who have been named in the First Information Report of January 1, are still to be arrested. Not just the FIR, Sub Divisional Police Officer Ganesh More had informed the Supreme Court in a counter affidavit, on behalf of Pune Police, that Bhide and Ekbote posed a threat to witnesses/informants. Still, no action.Also, More’s submission to the Supreme Court, on behalf of the Pune police, clearly ascribed the blame for the riots on Bhide and Ekbote. On the other hand, the lawyers of the five arrested activists have pointed out that the remand application has not been handed over to them, and they were only shown the document for a while in the courts.

Again, as per the FIR filed by complainant Anita Ravindra Savle (39), a social worker, against Sambhaji Bhide, founder Shiv Jagar Pratishthan, and Milind Ekbote, founder Hindu Janajagran Samiti, and their accomplices, they were allegedly responsible for provoking the violence. More, too, had said Ekbote and his accomplices were dangerous and absconding, which had caused a serious law and order problem in the State and that he (Ekbote) should not be granted bail.Based on this original FIR, the charges against Bhide and Ekbote were applied. Shockingly, these serious charges include attempt to murder, rioting, armed with deadly weapon, deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class,  mischief by fire and explosive substance, with intent to destroy house, intent to damage property with fire, and criminal conspiracy.

In addition, serious charges of intentional insult with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe under the Scheduled Castes  and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, have been filed against Ekbote and Bhide.  Officer More, in his petition, further stated that Ekbote distributed certain pamphlets which ‘established the involvement of petitioner in the offence which shook the social conscience in the state of Maharashtra.’

The language in the pamphlets was ‘objectionable which triggered the said violence between two communities,’ it was alleged. The Pune police accordingly demanded custodial interrogation of Ekbote and his five ‘unknown’ accomplices.More also drew attention to Ekbote’s antecedents which the police feared would endanger the lives of Savle and other witnesses.

 The police also submitted a list of 40 similar offences committed by Ekbote in the jurisdiction in and around Pune in which 23 are pending. “It is evident, the petitioner has breached conditions of bail in the 23 pending cases. He has no remorse and has not abided by conditions imposed by trial courts,” read More’s statement. Of these, 17 cases, in respect of the alleged incident at Bhima Koregaon, are in Shikrapur police station.

The police have blamed Ekbote of avoiding the investigations and evading arrest and hence they suggested that his anticipatory bail be cancelled. Officer More also said that Ekbote has been a habitual offender in creating ‘communal discord’ in the past. “The offences created by the petitioner have created serious law and order problems, wherein there was severe damage to public property worth crores and also created fear of injury to life.” More warned the court that if Ekbote is left free, “There might be occurrence of a similar situation in various parts of the state.”Despite the warning of a repeat of Bhima Koregaon, the state machinery has still not arrested Ekbote.

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