The eighty-plus year old was first booked for inciting violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018, which resulted in the death of one; charges against him were thereafter diluted
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday directed the Pune Police to complete its investigation into the alleged involvement of 85-year-old activist Sambhaji Bhide in the Bhima-Koregaon riots and submit its report in a month.
A two-member, division bench of justice Ranjit More and justice NJ Jamadar, while hearing a criminal writ petition filed by Pune resident Anita Sawale, was informed by the petitioner, through advocate Suresh Mane, that the police had in June sought three months to complete its investigation and file a charge sheet or report, which it had failed to do.
Bhide, well known for his political use vitriolic hate speech, had, along with others, been booked for inciting violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018. The violence had resulted in the death of one. Although a case was registered against Bhide and others, the charge sheet spelling out his role in the violence hasn’t been filed yet. There have been media reports of charges against this set of accused being diluted.
In April this year, the Pune Police had told the court that the role of Bhide and other right-wing activists in the violence was being investigated and that it needed time till June. The court had granted time, but on June 16, the police informed the court that it needed three more months to conclude its investigation, which the court granted.
However, on Monday, Mane informed the court no charge sheet had been filed and hence sought directions to expedite the same. On its part, the state through additional public prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde submitted that the investigation was on in full swing, but it would only conclude by December and hence sought time till then to file the charge sheet or the report.After hearing the submissions, the bench directed the state to conclude the investigation and file the charge sheet in four weeks and posted the matter for hearing on November 11.
Bhide, along with Miling Ekbote was accused of inciting Bhima Koregaon violence by giving inciteful and hate speeches just before the event which was the bi-centenary of the Battlle of BhimaKoregaon. He is a controversial figure who has been active in propagating militant Hindutva ideology and building Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan. He has been rather active in the past three decades in supposedly ‘spreading awareness’ on the life of Maratha warrior king Shivaji.
It is notable that he also faces charges of instigating communal riots in Miraj-Sangli in Sangli district during Ganpati emersion, over an arch sporting a poster depicting the slaying of Afzal Khan. Though a demand was made for his arrest, but the then Congress-NCP government didn’t take any action against him. He also played a major role when his organisation ransacked theatres to protest the film, Jodha Akbar in 2008.
Sambhaji Bhide is also a former RashtriyaSwyamasevakSangh (RSS) worker.
In October 2018, there were media reports that cases against Bhide were being withdrawn.
In March 2018, Sabrangindia had reported on the fact that Bhide had been recommended for a Padma Shri! Manohar alias Sambhaji Bhide, a right-wing Hindutva leader from Sangli accused of inciting the Bhima Koregaon violence on January 1 in Koregaon, had been recommended for Padma Sri award by the BJP government in Maharashtra in 2016.