Bhima Koregaon: Four years after violence, cases registered by rural police await trial
PUNE Four years after the Bhima Koregaon violence that claimed one life and left multiple others injured with large scale damage to property, a chargesheet of at least 1,500 pages has been filed in the case against 41 people including Samasta Hindu Aghadi convener Milind Ekbote but excluding Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratishthan in the case of attempted murder and rioting that was registered against them in January 2018.
His name was dropped from the chargesheet citing a lack of evidence of his involvement, according to Abhinav Deshmukh, superintendent of Pune rural police.
In the aftermath of violence in Bhima Koregaon in January 2018, three major chains of investigation have emerged. One turned into a major terrorism investigation into the attendants of Elgar Parishad held in the city one day before the violence; that case was taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Pune city police. The second is the two-member Bhima Koregaon Inquiry Commission; it gained yet another extension on December 24 to file a report by June 30, 2022. The third is the case against Ekbote and Bhide who were booked for attempted murder and rioting by Pune rural police. At Shikrapur police station of Pune rural police, where the case against Bhide and Ekbote was registered, there are 21 other cases related to the January 2018 violence and scores others at other police stations of Pune rural police.
Bhide, 84, has not been arrested in the case. Ekbote, in his 60s, who was also booked in the second case of rioting, was arrested in both cases. His anticipatory bail application was rejected in January 2018 by a court in Pune, in February 2018 by the Bombay High Court, and the Supreme Court rejected it in March 2018. Ekbote served police custody till April 19, 2018, after which he was granted bail. Out of the 41 people named in the chargesheet, ten have been named as absconding from the police.
In December 2019, the Pune rural police had issued notices barring entry in Pune district to both Ekbote, Bhide and 161 others. Two years later, in January 2021, Anil Deshmukh who was the then home minister of the state, was questioned about the status of the case against the Hindutva leaders during his visit to Yerawada central jail. That is when he revealed that a proposal was received by the government to issue prosecution sanctions in the case.
“We had sent a proposal for prosecution sanction to the state government. We got the sanctions and we registered a chargesheet in the case around one and a half months ago (November),” said Prakash Dhas, deputy superintendent of police, Daund division of Pune rural police.
All the charges under which the case was registered were brought in the chargesheet, according to Dhas. The case was registered under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly guilty), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy a house, among), 435 (mischief by destroying or moving a landmark fixed by public authority mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage) of the Indian Penal Code along with relevant sections of the Arms Act and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocity) Act.
“We registered the chargesheet against those whom we found evidence. We have not named those against whom evidence was not found,” said another senior officer on condition of anonymity.
The proposal for prosecution sanction was sent to the home department of the state government when Deshmukh was the state home minister. However, the sanctions were granted after Dilip Walse-Patil took over. Both ministers are members of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The case is now awaiting further proceedings from the court. Since nobody is in jail in the case, there are no pending bail applications in the case. The case is now awaiting trial.