Bhim Army, on Sunday, hit out at Milind Ekbote, demanding that the right-wing leader be detained ahead of the 201st anniversary celebrations of the 1818 Koregaon-Bhima battle on January 1 to prevent him from aggravating social tensions.Milind Ekbote, prime accused in orchestrating the Bhima-Koregaon clashes, had earlier written to the Bhima-Koregaon inquiry panel urging them to deny permission to Bhim Army’s rally in Pune on December 30.“Who is Ekbote, who is named in an FIR as the chief instigator of the Bhima-Koregaon riots and is out on bail, to deny us permission? He has always disturbed the peace in the past with his inflammatory remarks. We urge the Pune police not to give importance to his affidavit and place him under house arrest till the January 1 ceremony passes off peacefully,” said Datta Pol, the outfit’s Pune district president, speaking to The Hindu on Sunday.The Dalit outfit is planning to hold a ‘Bhima-Koregaon Sangharsh Mahasabha’ at the city’s SSPMS grounds on December 30. Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ is expected to speak at the event.Mr. Azad, who is scheduled to reach Maharashtra on December 28, will be speaking in Mumbai, Latur and Amravati as well.Threat to public peace and order, says EkboteEarlier this week, appearing before the two-member Bhima-Koregaon inquiry commission, Mr. Ekbote submitted that the Bhim Army’s proposed rally constituted a “new threat” to public peace and order.Mr. Ekbote claimed that a rally held last year had “provoked” people and “promoted hatred and social division”.“The Jaysthambha [victory pillar at Bhima-Koregaon] is not only being treated as a religious place for worship, but a false historical narrative is being constructed by the political leaders from the Dalit community,” Mr. Ekbote said in his plea.Mr. Ekbote, who heads ‘Samasta Hindu Aghadi’, had vehemently opposed the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ held last year on December 31, a day before the clashes erupted at the village of Bhima-Koregaon.Police permissionSlamming Mr. Ekbote, Mr. Pol denigrated his claims as “ridiculous”, commenting that the Bhima-Koregaon Ranstambh (victory pillar) was not a ‘religious place of worship’ and used to be frequented by members from the Dalit community even before Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s visit there in 1927.Mr. Pol further said that the process of getting police permission to hold the rally was on and that a few formalities needed to be completed.“The Bund Garden police, under whose jurisdiction our proposed event falls, has asked us to submit documents pertaining to the arrangements at the venue. We are in the process of submitting the same,” he informed.Meanwhile, the Ramdas Athawale-led RPI (A) has urged the administration to deny permission to rallies being held within 500 metres of the victory pillar in a bid to maintain order during the celebrations.“We further appeal to individuals and parties to desist from spreading misinformation through social media and posters or uttering provocative speeches and statements calculated to cause discord between castes or communities,” said RPI (A) leader Ashok Kamble.While lakhs of Dalits converged on the victory pillar (Ranstambh or Jayastambh) each year to pay their respects, the celebrations this year were marred by riots that left one person dead besides aggravating social tensions across Maharashtra.Since then, there have been two investigations into the affair. The Pune Rural police has lodged an FIR against right-wing Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’ and Milind Ekbote, naming them as the orchestrators of the violence.The Pune City police have conducted multi-city crackdowns across the country and have arrested ten noted intellectuals and activists including advocate Surendra Gadling, Professor Shoma Sen, poet P. Varavara Rao and Sudha Bharadwaj among others for their alleged links with Maoist outfits and for their roles in the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ and the subsequent Bhima-Koregaon clashes.
The Madhya Pradesh Police have arrested five persons on the charge of thrashing three persons, including two local Congress leaders, on July 26 night on the suspicion of being child-lifters. Armed with lathis, 20 residents of Nawal Singhana village, 35 km from Betul town, blocked a road towards Shahpur, waiting for a vehicle approaching from the Chicholi police station area, said Karthikeyan K., Betul Superintendent of Police. “They mistook its three occupants for child-lifters and started attacking them. But, when they realised they were local leaders, they ran away,” he said. Betul district Congress general secretary Dharmendra Shukla, party leader Dharmu Singh Lanjiwar and tribal leader Lalit Baraskar suffered minor injuries, while their vehicle was damaged.Later, they filed a complaint in the Shahpur police station, on which the police registered a case under sections 147 [Punishment for rioting] and 323 [Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt] of the Indian Penal Code. Five persons are yet to be arrested. The police suspect a viral video of a child-lifter at the Itarsi railway station, 90 km from Betul, to be the trigger. “The video is doing rounds in Betul, Harda and Hoshangabad districts. Although the immediate trigger of the incident is not yet known, it occurred after the video became viral,” said Mr. Karthikeyan. To arrest the growing trend of attacking persons on the suspicion of being child-lifters, the Betul police has begun organising jansamvad programmes with residents of five villages at a time. “We tell them to use the dial-100 facility in case they are suspicious of anyone and not take the law in their own hands. Now, we have started getting more calls, especially between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m..,” said Mr. Karthikeyan. Responding to a call, a dial-100 vehicle visits the spot to ascertain whether the person in question is a child-lifter or not. “Though it may increasing our workload, it is an effective way to control the situation,”he said. The Shahpur police station received 10-15 calls relating to child-lifters every day, the most in the district, he added.