Mumbai, (The Hindu): Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of all cases, except serious ones, in connection with violence that left one person dead and 3,000 injured at Bhima-Koregaon in Pune.
Speaking in the Legislative Council, Mr. Fadnavis said that the government would provide compensation for property worth 13 crore that was destroyed during the four days of rioting. He said, “We have appointed a committee under an officer of the rank of Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) to assess serious cases before withdrawing them. The rest will be withdrawn.”
The State announced the withdrawal of 989 cases, of which 350 are serious offences. Mr. Fadnavis said, “This committee will submit recommendations to a cabinet sub-committee, which will then decide whether the serious cases should also be withdrawn. The committee will submit its report in three months.”
Mr. Fadnavis said disciplinary action was taken against 2,954 individuals who took part in the riots that erupted when thousands of Dalits were visiting a war memorial at Bhima-Koregaon and some pro-Hindutva outfits opposed their celebrations. Dalits commemorate the victory of East India Company forces over the Brahmin Peshwa’s army at Bhima-Koregaon in 1818, as the British forces included a contingent of Mahars, then considered an untouchable community.
Violence sparked off after a noticeboard mentioning the name of a Dalit farmer, Govind Ganapat Mahar (Gaikwad), went missing from the memorial of Sambhaji Maharaj, the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji, at Vadhu Budruk in Pune. Gaikwad had conducted Sambhaji’s last rites in defiance of a Mughal diktat. This attempt to erase Gaikwad’s important contribution has been a contentious issue between the Dalits and the Marathas.
A total of 1,199 persons were arrested, 622 cases of rioting were filed, 17 cases were registered under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and 2,053 people were taken into preventive custody. Mr. Fadnavis said, “The government will not withdraw the cases against history-sheeters who took advantage of the situation and looted property.”
Last month, the Supreme Court had rapped the State for failing to nab Milind Ekbote, chief of Samasta Hindu Ekta Aghadi. A case had been registered against Mr. Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, chief of the Shivraj Pratishthan for inciting violence. The Bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph while granting interim relief to Mr. Ekobte had asked the State government what kept it from “doing its job and arresting the accused”. The government clarified in the Assembly that extensive search and combing operations were conducted to arrest him after the riots.
Mr. Fadnavis said, “Despite our best efforts to arrest him, he escaped. We have now made a plea in the apex court to allow us a custodial interrogation upon his arrest while opposing his plea for an anticipatory bail.”
The Opposition alleged that the State administration was complicit in Mr. Ekobte’s escape. “It begs the questions if this was all State-sponsored terrorism,” said a member of the Opposition. Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde alleged that after the violence, some women were harassed during the combing operations in Aurangabad, and demanded an inquiry.
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