A court in Pune on Monday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of Milind Ekbote, who heads the radical Samasta Hindu Aghadi that is accused of inciting violence in Bhima Koregaon on January 1.

District Judge Prahlad Bhagure observed that the unrest during the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon was a “grave matter”, and that Ekbote faced “very serious charges against him”, reported The Hindu. The judge said Ekbote could flee if he was granted anticipatory bail.

Two First Information Reports – one in Pimpri and another in Aurangabad – were filed against Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, who leads the organisation Shiv Pratishthan. Dalit leaders and workers who had gathered in Bhima Koregaon near Pune alleged that they had seen Bhide and Ekbote in the area. The two Hindutva leaders have denied this.

A preliminary report prepared by a 10-member fact-finding and co-ordination committee said the violence was planned and members of radical Hindutva groups were involved in it, the Hindustan Times reported. Pune’s Deputy Mayor Siddharth Dhende, who led the committee, said there was sufficient evidence against Ekbote and Bhide proving that they had instigated the violence against Dalits.

Special Inspector General of Police (Kolhapur) Vishwas Nangre-Patil said the report was misleading. “The government will issue a clarification in this regard soon,” he told the Hindustan Times.

Bhima Koregaon clashes

Lakhs of people gather at Bhima Koregaon near Pune every New Year’s Day to commemorate the victory of the English, whose troops comprised mostly Mahar soldiers, against the Brahmin Peshwa-led Maratha Empire in 1818.

Clashes broke out in Bhima Koregaon and its surrounding areas during celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1, after some people, reportedly with saffron flags, pelted stones at cars going towards the village.

A man was killed in the violence, which subsequently spread to Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra over the next couple of days, with protestors calling for a bandh across the state. A 16-year-old teenager was crushed to death on January 3 in Nanded city while trying to escape the police during the unrest.