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Maharashtra govt faces flak for recommending Padma Shri for Bhima-Koregaon accused Bhide

The Opposition has vowed to corner the government over the issue during the ongoing budget session of the state legislature, while social activists have said it was the decision out of political agenda of the ruling party.

mumbai Updated: Mar 03, 2018 13:49 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,Sambhaji Bhide,Bhima Koregaon
Sambhaji Bhide (foreground, orange turban) is charged with inciting violence at Koregaon Bhima. (FILE)

Opposition parties and social activists slammed the state government for its recommendation to give a Padma award to Manohar alias Sambhaji Bhide in 2016.

The Opposition has vowed to corner the government over the issue during the ongoing budget session of the state legislature, while social activists have said it was the decision out of political agenda of the ruling party.

After Hindustan Times published the report on Thursday, March 1, about the recommendation by the state, political parties as well as other outfits reacted on social media and other platforms.

The Maharashtra Congress, on its official Twitter handle, questioned if this was the reason why Bhide was not being arrested for his involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence on January 1.

“We have been insisting on a debate on Bhima-Koregaon violence and the lethargic approach of the government in action against prime accused Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, but government does not want to speak on it. It is now clear that the government, which had recommended a Padma to Bhide would not dare to arrest him. Bhide has not even applied for bail, while Ekbote has himself alleged that police does not want to arrest him. We are going to raise these issues and the Padma proposal in next week in legislature,” said Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition in the legislative council.

Maratha outfit Sambhaji Brigade has alleged that it was political agenda of the ruling BJP to reward Bhide for his contribution in helping the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to spread the wings in western Maharashtra. “Despite strong opposition and social criticism, Babasaheb Purandare was given the highest state award Maharashtra Bhushan in 2015. The Padma award recommended for Bhide guruji was on the same lines as he has helped to established party to polarize the vote bank in western part of the state by projected Shivaji and Sambhaji the RSS way. Riots in Sangli, Miraj, Bhima-Koregaon had a systematic agenda behind them,” said Pravin Gaikwad, former state chief of the Brigade.

Kumar Saptarshi, social activist, said, “Recommendation of Padma was the ‘exchange’ by the BJP for the political benefits it reaped in 2009 and 2014 elections. He helped the BJP in making in-roads in Maratha community and it was witnessed in last two assembly elections.”

Congress group leader in the legislative council Sharad Ranpise said, “The government will have to clarify the contribution of Bhide guruji for recommending his name for Padma.”

Bhide, 84, who is also known as Bhide Guruji, is a controversial figure. His name was in the First Information Report (FIR) with another right wing leader Milind Ekbote. They have been accused of inciting villagers, who attacked Dalit groups paying tributes to the Mahar regiment soldiers who they believe defeated the Peshwas.

A former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker, Bhide is founder of an outfit, Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, which has been active for the past three decades in spreading awareness about the life of Maratha warrior king Shivaji. He has a following, especially among the youths, in a few districts of western Maharashtra.

Nitin Chaugule, secretary of Shiv Pratisthan Hindustan, said, “Guruji has never accepted any award in his life. He had turned down the recommendation of the Padma when the government contacted him in 2016.”

Chaugule however added that Bhide was not facing any case in Sangli riots. “He was booked in the Jodha Akbar row despite the fact that he was not even participated in the protest. He was booked out of the grudge against him by the then superintendent of police of Sangli. He has now come clean of it. Guruji has pending cases in Bhima Koregaon violence and a case registered against him in June 2017 for disrupting Waari in Pune. We are ready to face any investigation in these cases,” said Chaugule.

First Published: Mar 03, 2018 13:48 IST