New Delhi: Maharashtra Police have booked two leaders for inciting violence after caste clashes spread to Mumbai and other parts of the state. The 85-year-old Sambhaji Bhide who heads Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and Milind Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi have been accused of orchestrating violence at an event to mark bicentenary of Bhima-Koregaon Battle to mark Dalit martyrdom.
The tensions and ensuing violence led to the death of a 30-year-old man.
Both pro-Hindutva leaders enjoy sizeable support in some pockets of Maharashtra and on Tuesday Bharatiya Republican Party Bahujan Mahasangh President Prakash Ambedkar had accused them of conspiring to trigger the violence.
Ekbote, on Tuesday, said that the case against him was false and that he condemned the rioting.
This is not the first time that Bhide and Ekbote have hit the headlines for wrong reasons. In 2008, Bhide’s followers ransacked movie halls to protest the release of movie Jodha-Akbar in Sangli.
Ekbote has cases of rioting, trespassing, dacoity and had once come to blows with a fellow corporator on his remarks on Mumbai Haj House.
Dalit leaders have alleged that the two triggered the violence by desecrating the Samadhi of a Mahaar named Govind Gaikwad in a village called Wadhu in Pune district. Gaikwad, a Mahaar by caste is immortalised in Dalit folk-lore as someone who performed the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj, Shivaji’s son. Sambhaji was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
A man with no house and someone who wears no footwear, Bhide is armed with a master’s degree in atomic science and was a professor at Fergusson College, Pune.
Guruji, as he is fondly known, has maintained his own separate identity by refusing to join any political outfit.
In a speech ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi effusively praised Bhide for the extensive social work undertaken by the SPH leader and his organisation.
Unlike Bhide, Ekbote has been associated with the BJP in the past. He was the party corporator in Pune from 1997 to 2002. In 2007, he floated his outfit Samasta Hindu Aghadi, which has been at the forefront of anti-cow slaughter campaign.
In 2014, he fought the Shivajinagar elections on a Shiv Sena ticket but lost.