Mumbai (The Hindu): Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, led the Elgar Morcha in Azad Maidan demanding the arrest of Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide for his alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence in Pune on January 1.
Mr. Ambedkar threatened to gherao the Vidhan Sabha “come what may” if Mr. Bhide was not arrested within the next eight days. He said, “We will not leave until our demand is met. We want the law to be equal for everyone? If Milind Ekbote [Hindu Ekta Parishad leader and second accused in the case] can be arrested, what prevents Mr. Bhide [Shiv Prathishthan founder], who is the prime accused, from being arrested?”
‘Bhide close to Modi’
On March 15, Mr. Ambedkar had threatened to launch a march if the State government failed to arrest Mr. Bhide for allegedly inciting the anti-Dalit violence, which left one person dead. The Pune rural police had earlier this month arrested Mr. Ekbote, after the Supreme Court turned down his anticipatory bail plea.
Mr. Bhide and Mr. Ekbote allegedly “orchestrated” the violence during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Anglo-Maratha War, where the army of Peshwa Bajirao II was defeated by a small force of the East India Company that comprised a large number of Dalits
Mr. Ambedkar said, “On the birthday anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a photo of him standing with Mr. Bhide. By doing so, he sent out a signal that Mr. Bhide should not be touched.”
Monday’s protest was supported by the Left parties and the Sambhaji Brigade, a pro-Maratha, anti-Brahmin outfit. Later, a delegation, including Mr. Ambedkar, Left leaders Prakash Reddy and Milind Ranade and Shrimant Kokate of the Sambhaji Brigade, met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Mr. Ambedkar said the leaders pointed out Mr. Fadnavis that there was ample evidence to arrest Mr. Bhide.
Mr. Ambedkar said, “What is the point of having sufficient evidence if the Chief Minister is not planning to use it? The only reason why Mr. Bhide is still free is because he is close to Narendra Modi. It is a well known fact that Mr. Modi considers Mr. Bhide as his guru.” He criticised the government’s policies and said the Modi regime has to be ousted for democracy to prevail in the country.
Mr. Kokate said, “This is not the first time that Mr. Bhide has been accused of inciting a riot. He was accused of orchestrating a riot between Hindus and Muslims in Sangli around seven to eight years ago. Even back then no action taken against him. If he is not arrested this time, the Maharashtra Police should take the Chief Minister in for questioning.”
Among the protesters on Monday were Nitidada Gaikwad and Raju Kamble, who arrived early in the morning from Pune. Mr. Gaikwad said, “Hundreds of Dalit boys were arrested after the Maharashtra bandh based on CCTV footage, but investigation is still on to arrest Sambhaji Bhide.”
Mr. Kamble said Mr. Ekbote had claimed when he was arrested that Mr. Bhide was the main conspirator in the case. He said, “Despite this major allegation, the government has taken no action.” Both protesters said peaceful protest was still guaranteed under the Constitution and gheraoing the Vidhan Sabha was only recourse left to ensure justice prevails in the case. Mr. Ambedkar said around 4,000 Dalit youths had been arrested in the case and some of them were charged with attempt to murder. He said, “We are not asking them to revoke the cases, we know they are all false.”
The Central Railway on Monday said it would be running a special train, with 11 general coaches and two sleeper coaches, from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to Nagpur. Officials said that an additional general coach would be added to CSMT-Howrah Mail up to Bhusaval, CSMT-Secunderabad Devgiri Express up to Manmad, and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT)-Gorakhpur Express up to Bhusaval. Two general class coaches will be added to the LTT-Howrah Express up to Nagpur.
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