Pune court acquits 68 members of Sambhaji Brigade accused of ransacking Bhandarkar Institute
A local court in Pune on Friday acquitted 68 persons associated with Maratha outfit Sambhaji Brigade and accused of ransacking Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI). The attack had changed Maharashtra’s socio-political equations.
Sessions judge SJ Gharat acquitted the members of Maratha offshoot after 13 years of long trial.
The court order came after prosecution failed to establish the role of Sambhaji Brigade activists in the attack, said defence counsel Milind Pawar. There were a total of 72 persons booked in the case though four died during the course of trial.
“The prosecution examined nine witnesses in the case but failed to establish the role of 72 accused in the case,” said Pawar.
Internationally acclaimed BORI was vandalised by Maratha offshoot on January 5, 2004. The attack was allegedly a reaction to the publication of the controversial book from American author James Laine - Shivaji: A Hindu King in Islamic India.
Laine, after help from a few Brahmin Indian scholars from BORI, had penned the book having controversial references, which he termed as being submitted locally as a joke, that questioned the biological origin of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. Maratha organisations saw the book as a Brahminical conspiracy to challenge Maratha dominance as the book reference had vague connotations connecting Shivaji’s biological origin with Konddeo.
The attack preceded Lok Sabha elections where parties like Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) made attempt to take mileage by raking up the book issue to pitch Maratha sentiments.
According to the case filed by the police after the attack, the mob had damaged the Mahabharata department and destroyed some rare manuscripts of the institute, founded on July 6, 1917 to commemorate the work of Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar.
The mob, according to the police, was also accused of damaging computers, photocopy machines, furniture, reference index cards and several other things.
Anant Chonde, former state president of Sambhaji Brigade and the prime accused in the case, said that his organisation had full faith in judiciary and Constitution.
“After a long wait of 13 years, we have got justice,” said Chonde.
Earlier on Thursday, a local court accepted an application filed by government to withdraw a criminal case against Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s personal assistant Milind Narvekar accused of instigating violence during the 2010 Pune bandh. The bandh was reaction to removal of Dadoji Konddeo’s statue, a part of sculpture depicting teenaged Chhatrapati Shivaji along with mother Jijau tilling the land with golden plough, from the historically important Lal Mahal.
This irked BJP-Sena, which vandalised the furniture at Pune Municipal Corporation headquarters and called for Pune bandh.
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