CM’s clean chit to Bhide cites key Pune complainant’s volte face

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the investigating agency did not find any direct evidence of Bhide’s involvement in case involving the Bhima Koregaon violence

pune Updated: Mar 27, 2018 22:33 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Sangali,Bhima Koregaon violence
Sambhaji Bhide (orange turban) is accused of orchestrating the Bhima Koregaon violence which took place on January 1, 2018.(HT FILE PHOTO)

A day after Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar led a protest march demanding the arrest of Shiv Pratisthan founder Sambhaji Bhide, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, on Tuesday gave a clean chit to the right-wing Hindutva leader.

Fadnavis said the investigating agency did not find any direct evidence of Bhide’s involvement in case involving the Bhima Koregaon violence .

Fadnavis told the assembly that the investigating agencies checked various call records and locations of Bhide and key leaders of his organisation over the last six months, but found nothing objectionable. The CM said Bhide was not found to be in contact with the people involved in the violence.

“The first information report (FIR) was registered on the basis of complaint registered by a woman complainant. During the recording of her statement before the judicial magistrate she said her complaint was based on hearsay and she had no evidence of his involvement. She said she had mentioned Bhide’s name on the basis of what she heard from people around her. There is no direct involvement of Bhide in the case and no question arises of the action against him,”Fadnavis said.

“Having said this I want to clarify that the investigation has not been shut as yet. The police have been investigating fresh evidence that has come to the fore. Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh chief Prakash Ambedkar has given me more documents and we have assured them to investigate it,” Fadnavis said.

CM’s clean chit to Bhide came after a complainant in the case, Anita Salve, in her statement to the Pune police, contradicted an earlier statement. Salve has now said she does not know Bhide.

Bhide is accused of orchestrating the Bhima Koregaon violence which took place on January 1.

Salve’s complaint in the case was filed at the Shikrapur police station against Bhide and Samsta Hindu Aghadi leader Milind Ekbote. In the complaint filed on January 2 Salve alleged that she saw Milind Ekbote and Bhide orchestrating the violence.

In her statement given to police on March 21, 2018, she has said she did not see Bhide during the violence, a senior police official who requested anonymity said.

When contacted, Salve said, she would not like to talk about the issue at the moment. “I am busy. You can call me later,” said Salve on the phone. Later, she switched off her phone when HT tried to reach her again in the evening.

Pune SP Suvez Haque while declining to reveal the additional contents of the latest statement given by Salve, said, “She has recorded her statement. It is now part of the investigation.”

Bhide, a former RSS full timer, popularly known as Bhide guruji, was booked by Shikrapur police, along with Ekbote, under sections Section 307 (attempted murder), 143, 147, 148, 149, 295 (a), 435, 436 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 4/25 read with Sections 3(2)(5), 3(1)(10) of Arms Act.

Reacting to the clean chit given to Bhide by the state government, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar said, “We have never said Bhide was directly involved in the riots. All we are saying is that he orchestrated the riots.”

After Elgar march at Azad Maidan on Monday, Prakash Ambedkar had demanded immediate arrest of Bhide. He has submitted a post on Facebook by a follower of Bhide posted a day ahead of the violence. Ambedkar had claimed that the follower had posted Bhide’s photograph and had spoken openly about the expected crowd on January 1.

The CM said the Bhima Koregaon violence was a blot on the state and the government would not spare anybody, irrespective of his social or political stature.

Fadnavis also announced the maintenance and makeover of the Sambhaji Maharaj memorial at Vadu and the Vijay Stambh (memorial of Mahar soldiers) at Bhima Koregaon. Lakhs of Dalits assemble at the battle memorial at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 every year. This year, they were attacked by some groups that led to violence.

In connection with another issue, Fadnavis said his government had in 2015 sent a proposal to the Centre to issue a ban on right wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha.

Bhide supporters to march today, despite no police permission

Pune police have denied permission to a protest march on Wednesday which was to be carried out by supporters of Sambhaji Bhide in the city.

The organisers are firm on taking out the march. Citing a law and order situation, Vishrambaug police denied permission for the march, according to police inspector Shrikant Shinde. The march was to express solidarity with Bhide, who is accused of orchestrating the Bhima Koregaon violence. Organisers said in view of no permission from the Vishrambaug police, they are planning to change the route of march.

First Published: Mar 27, 2018 22:29 IST