Bhima Koregaon violence: Fadnavis gives Bhide a clean chit. Ambedkar cries foul
Maharashtra Chief Minister Davendra Fadnavis has given a clean chit to Sambhaji Bhide, who was alleged to be the mastermind behind the violence against Dalits at Bhima Koregaon in January this year.
Fadnavis told the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly that there was no evidence to prove that Bhide was involved in carrying out or instigating the violence.
He said that the investigating agencies checked location of Bhide and other important leaders of his organisation for the last six months and found nothing objectionable. It was also found that Bhide was not even in contact with the people involved in the violence against Daltis, he added.
Replying to the debate on the issue in the House, Fadnavis informed that the complaint was lodged by a woman who, deposed before Judicial Magistrate that the complaint was based on hearsay and she did not have direct evidence to allege Bhide’s involvement in the violence.
“Since there is no direct evidence against Bhide, there is no question of acting against him,” Fadnavis told the House. He also clarified that the investigations are still going on. He said that the fresh evidence that has been provided by Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar is now being investigated.
When contacted, Ambedkar said, “CM Fadnavis is misleading the House. I have given clinching evidence against Sambhaji Bhide. His supporters, in a Facebook post on 1 January, had said that Guardian Minister for Pune district Girish Bapat and CM Fadnavis should be killed since they (followers of Bhide) could not reach the desired number. This is clear evidence of the violence propagated by Bhide and his followers. It also proves that Bhide and his organisation was behind the violence at Bhima Koregaon.”
Ambedkar also alleged that the government is eager to give clean chit to Bhide because of his proximity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Fadnavis.
“When Fadnavis informed the House that there was no evidence against Bhide, the Opposition should have confronted him. The so-called fresh evidence given by me that Fadnavis is talking about, was actually given in January, immediately after the violence,” Ambedkar said, adding, “I hope the Opposition corners CM Fadnavis in the House.”
Thousands of Dalits from across the country visit Bhima Koregaon village to pay tributes to Mahar soldiers in British Army who defeated the Peshwa's army on 1 January 1818. This year was the 200 years celebration of the event. However, the otherwise peaceful event at Bhima Koregaon village turned violence when people belonging to Upper Castes opposed it and allegedly assaulted the Dalits.
The violence soon spread across the state bringing it to grinding halt. Prakash Ambedkar called a Maharashtra bandh on 3 January to protest the assault on innocent Dalits. He also accused Sambhaji Bhide, founder of Shiv Pratishthan, of being behind the violence. Ambedkar had also alleged that former BJP corporator from Pune Milind Ekbote also instigated the violence against Dalits. Ekbote was arrested last week, after the Supreme Court rejected his anticipatory bail.
Prakash Ambedkar had taken out an Elgar Morcha in Mumbai on 26 March demanding Bhide's arrest. He also met Fadnavis to press his demand.