Bhima Koregaon: Bombay HC rejects anticipatory bail plea of Hindutva leader

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday rejected an anticipatory bail plea filed by Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote, a key accused charged with inciting the casteist riots of January 1 in Pune.

With this, the stage is set for the possible of arrest of Ekbote – who heads the Hindu Ekta Manch – and has been booked under three different cases pertaining to the Koregaon-Bhima incident in which a youth was killed, besides many injured and widespread damage to public and private properties worth around Rs 9 crore.

A division bench of Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice Bharati H. Dangre, while rejecting Ekbote’s contentions challenging a Pune Sessions Court order declining his anticipatory plea, ruled that the lower court’s observations in the matter could not be ignored.

Citing the Pune court, dismissing his anticipatory bail plea on January 22, observed that he was an accused in a “grave matter with very serious charges” against him, the bench said: “We cannot ignore the averments made by the (Pune) trial court against the appellant. Therefore we find no merit in this plea and are inclined to reject it.”

Challenging the sessions court’s order rejecting his pre-arrest bail plea, Ekbote argued that police had erred in lodging the charges against him since he was not present at the site of the violence in Koregaon-Bhima.

Accordingly, he contended there was no question of him inciting any violence or committing any acts of atrocities, as alleged by police.

Ekbote said the ground situation in that area had been simmering since 10 days prior to the January 1 violence – when several lakhs of Dalits from all over Maharashtra had gathered to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the victory of British East Company’s forces over the army of Peshwa Bajirao II on January 1, 1818.

The former BJP municipal corporator from Pune termed it as an “intelligence failure” for not gauging that the situation could turn so bad, and the violence preceded the Yalgar Parsiahd in Pune where Gujarat lawmaker Jignesh Mevani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid allegedly made provocative speeches.

Arguing against the anticipatory bail plea, the state made it clear that police had evidence of Ekbote’s presence in a hotel around four kms near Koregaon-Bhima two days before (December 30) the violence, and as per his mobile records, he was in contact with at least four other accused in the case.

It may be mentioned that Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide are the two men who have been accused of hatching the conspiracy and instigating a mob at Koregaon Bhima to indulge in violence.

It is noteworthy that Bhide’s aura is such that even PM Modi takes inspiration from him.

During Lok Sabha polls in October 2014, when PM Modi visited Sangli, he specially met Sambhaji Bhide.

PM Modi had said he had come to seek blessings of Bhide Guruji who had been an inspiration during the early days of his life.

“I did not come to Sangli on my own, but I was given orders by Bhide Guruji to visit his city, and here I am,” the PM is reported to have said at an election rally in Sangli district.

Not just PM but also the current Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and several heavyweight political figures admired him.

With inputs from IANS