The Maharashtra Police have dropped Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide’s name from the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence case, PTI reported on Wednesday. In a report filed before the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission, the police submitted that the Bhide was not found to have played any role in the violence, PTI reported.
“The name of Bhide has not been included in the chargesheet since there is no evidence against him so far,” said the police, according to the Hindustan Times.
On the morning of January 1, 2018, thousands of Dalits had gathered at Koregaon Bhima village of Pune district to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, in which Dalit soldiers fighting for the British Army had defeated the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha empire.
Later in the day, Maratha and Dalit groups broke into violent clashes in which one person was killed and several injured.
In two cases registered with the Pune Police, Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Bhide had been accused of instigating the violence by making hate speech a week before the incident. Ekbote was arrested only briefly before being released on bail, and Bhide was not questioned nor detained.
The complaint against Ekbote and Bhide was filed by Dalit activist Anita Sawale, the Hindustan Times reported. The Pune Rural Police had filed a chargesheet against 41 persons in September 2021, without Bhide’s name, saying that they could not find any evidence against him.
However, Pimpri Police had filed a case against Bhide under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including an attempt to murder, PTI reported.
Bhide’s lawyer, Advocate Aditya Mishra, had submitted to the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission last year, that the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said in the state Assembly that the case against Bhide will be withdrawn, but that was yet to happen, PTI reported.
Mishra had cited Fadnavis’ comments from March 2018 about the police having no evidence against Bhide, The Indian Express reported. The lawyer had asked the police for a status report on the case against Bhide.
On Wednesday, the superintendent of Pune Rural Police Abhinav Deshmukh submitted to the commission that the case against Bhide has been dropped.
The final hearing on the matter before the commission will be on July 4.