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The attitude of the state
2008 riot cases dropped; 6 Months Later, Booked For Koregaon Clashes
6 Months Later, He Was Booked For Koregaon Bhima Clashes
The BJP-led Maharashtra government has dropped three cases of rioting filed in 2008 against Sambhaji Bhide, leader of the right-wing group Shivpratishthan Hindustan who has been booked in the Koregaon Bhima violence case.
The cases were taken back last year and were among the 41 against common people and politicians — including 14 MLAs, mostly from BJP and Sena — withdrawn between 2008 and December 2017, the government said in reply to an RTI query filed by activist Shakeel Ahmed Sheikh.
The cases were registered against Bhide in Sangli for allegedly vandalising cinema halls screening ‘Jodhaa Akbar’. They were withdrawn by a cabinet sub-committee under finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar in June 2017, just six months before the Koregaon Bhima clashes. The committee was constituted to review cases filed against political activists.
Bhide, along with Milind Ekbote, was booked after violent clashes broke out on January 1 between Dalit and Maratha groups at Koregaon Bhima village near Pune.
“The cases revoked relate to participation in political or social agitations. We have taken back cases against many people, Bhide being one of them. The Congress-NCP government had taken the decision to withdraw cases registered for protesting for public welfare. These cases have been dropped after taking appropriate permission from courts,” said Mungatiwar.
Sheikh was not convinced. “What is the interest of the Maharashtra government in dropping charges against them? The government must explain why these people were given special treatment,” said Sheikh.
Junior home minister Deepak Kesarkar said, “We have not withdrawn a single case against Bhide in connection with the Koregaon Bhima violence.”
As in 2018
Sambhaji Bhide has been booked for inciting Koregaon Bhima violence .
Bhide is a PhD in physics with a gold medal in MSc.
He said power-hungry people triggered the unrest.
Few know that the dhoti-wearing, 84-year-old Sambhaji Bhide, booked by the Shikrapur police for incitement in the Koregaon Bhima violence+ on January 1, once held forth on complex physics. 'Professor' Bhide, a PhD in physics with a gold medal in MSc, relinquished this identity when he quit his job at Fergusson College in Pune in the 1980s to pursue his passion to mobilize youths to conserve Chhatrapati Shiva-ji Maharaj's forts.
Bhide was reluctant to speak about his past when a TOI reporter met him at his residence in Sangli on Friday." Mazhi mahiti pahije asel tar pahile mazya mohimet sahabhagi vha," (If you want to know about me, join my movement to conserve the forts), he said. "If I am found guilty, then give me dehadand (death)," Bhide said, adding that he has not visited Koregaon Bhima in the last two and half years.
"Check the videos (of rioting). Allegations were also levelled against Bhagwan Shri Krishna that he stole a jewel. The allegation was proved wrong. History will repeat in my case too," he said. According to him, "The violence at Koregaon Bhima was triggered by power hungry people. One needs to look at the chain of events in the recent past." "First, the fire was lit in the name of farmers with an irrational demand for a complete loan waiver. Then there was a demand for reservation for Marathas. The demand made by Lingayats for a separate status is also a part of this strategy. Then, there was a demand that those who are now in power should quit. We should see where the shoe pinches. They are ready to do anything to get power. And these people are from all political parties," Bhide said.
His supporters say Bhide guruji cannot indulge in violence. They point out that the octogenarian leads a simple life and they can vouch for him as they have known him for 40 years. They marched in Sangli to protest against the police move to book him. "He could have easily led a comfortable life in Pune. He was a gold medallist and a scholar," a supporter said.
Kiran Shaligram, a member of the governing body of Deccan Education Society that runs Fergusson College, confirmed that Bhide was a professor of physics at the college but said he would have to check records about his period of service. He lives in a small room in one corner of an apartment in anarrow lane behind a school in the old area of Sangli.
A separate staircase leads to his room. "He has been living here for the last 40 years. He uses an old bicycle to travel and walks barefoot. He has no belongings except books and the jute sacks he uses as a mattress and a towel as a pillow," his neighbour Vaishali Bapat told TOI. She added that he keeps the door to his room open. Malati Kulkarni, another neighbour, said he exercises every day even at his age and inspires youths to perform surya namaskars every morning.