14, Jan 2022 | CJP Team
Milind Ekbote, of the Samast Hindu Aghadi organisation and one of the main accused in the Bhima Koregaon riots case, is now involved in a case of making hate speech, and has been granted ad-interim bail by a Pune Court. He was arrested by the rural police on charges of instigation and delivering inflammatory speech ahead of the bicentennial celebrations of the battle of Bhima Koregaon, reported Hindustan Times.
Ekbote, along with Nandkishore Ekbote, Deepak Nagpure, Kalicharan Mahajraj and Mohannrao Shete were booked under sections 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) , 298 (Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings), 505(2) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) and 34 (acts done in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. While Kalicharan Maharaj was arrested and granted bail earlier, the rest were granted interim bail on January 12.
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Kalicharan Maharaj was arrested by Chhattisgarh Police from Madhya Pradesh’s Khajuraho on the morning of December 30 for insulting Mahatma Gandhi by praising Nathuram Godse. He had said, “I salute Nathuram Godse that he killed Gandhi.”
The bail order by Additional Sessions Judge PR Ashturkar states that the accused shall be released on executing P. R. bond of Rs.25,000/- each along with one or two sureties of the like amount on the condition that they:
– shall not tamper with evidence
– shall cooperate with the investigation
– shall not commit any offence and
– shall attend the police station every Sunday.
On December 19, a program was held at Natubag maidan to mark the occasion of the killing of Afzal Khan by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj where the accused made hate inciting and hurtful statements against Muslims and Christians. After the video clip of the speech went viral on social media, Khadak police station in Pune lodged a case on December 28.
Ekbote and Bhima Koregaon riots
Milind Ekbote along with another Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide, was the prime accused in the violent clashes that took place during the celebrations of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon, on January 1, 2018 which had left one person dead and created social tension in the state. Dalit social activist Anita Savale had filed a complaint alleging that she saw the followers of Bhide and Ekbote go on a rampage in Bhima Koregaon, throwing stones and assaulting people. They were carrying weapons and burnt Ambedkarite flags, she said.
He was booked in two FIRs for inciting violence and rioting as well as under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. He was arrested in this matter in March 2018 and after failing to get pre-arrest bail right up the Supreme Court, a Pune Sessions court granted bail in April within a month of his arrest.
In September 2021, Harshali Potdar who is an accused in the case, deposed before the inquiry commission appointed by the Maharashtra government and claimed the 2018 violence at Bhima Koregaon in Pune district was instigated by Bhide and Ekbote.
There are 36 cases registered by the Pune rural police after riots broke out in Bhima Koregaon in 2018. Out of these cases, chargesheets have been filed in 16, while summary reports of logical conclusions have been filed in at least 18 others. The cases against Ekbote and Bhide, appear to be awaiting sanction for prosecution from the government as the Pune Police reportedly submitted a proposal for filing chargesheet at least against Ekbote sometime around January 2021.
Ekbote and hate speech
Ekbote was booked in March 2021 for allegedly making objectionable comments while opposing the construction of a Haj House in Kondhwa, Pune. He allegedly referred to Kondhwa as “mini-Pakistan” and claimed that intelligence reports had pointed out that “sleeper cells for terrorists” had been operating from the area. However, in this case as well he was immediately granted bail.
While granting the bail, the judge reportedly stated, “Upon perusal of the FIR, it transpires that, there is delay in lodging the FIR. The applicant has only brought to the notice of the fact about the construction of Haj House under the name of Civil and Cultural Centre upon the land which is in the possession of Pune Municipal Corporation and which cannot be carried out as per the verdict of Hon’ble High Court, Bombay and the Hon’ble Apex Court as per GR dated 5th November, 2016. All the alleged offences are triable by court of magistrate. The applicant is ready to co-operate the investigation machinery. In the alleged set of facts narrated in the complaint, the custodial interrogation of the applicant is not necessary at this stage,” as reported by Hindustan Times.
In October 2001 Madhav Sanap, Superintendent of Police, Pune Rural sent a communication to State Intelligence Bureau and Special IG, Kolhapur Range recounting Ekbote’s provocative behaviour and inciteful speech on October 7, 2001 to a crowd near the Sorati Somnath Temple, following which the mob gathered there ‘the crowd moved deeper into the villages, where they demolished the Muslim Cemetery and Idgah, and set numerous Muslim shops and houses on fire.’ An FIR was registered against him under several sections of the IPC on October 9, 2001. The rural Pune police also opposed him being granted bail saying that Ekbote’s agenda is ‘to create a Hindu-Muslim communal conflict by hiding away oneself. Shri Ekbote is a staunch Hindu Fundamentalist, and if he is granted Bail, he is certain to take advantage of the currently brewing situation which will ultimately lead to riots in the society.’
Criminal profile of Ekbote
Apart from rioting and making hate speeches, which are only his recent crimes, Milind Ekbote has a history of disturbing public peace by creating communal tension since the year 1989. In 2001, the Pune Police opined that strict action must be taken against him under the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords, Bootleggers, Drug-Offenders and Dangerous Persons Act. Proposals were sent to 6 Police Commissioners and 1 Deputy Police Commissioner highlighting his casteist actions in Pune and Satara.
Ekbote would allegedly assemble groups of Hindu Youth in the Pune and Satara Districts, and recite to them (distorted) stories from ‘Hindu History’ in relation to Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Sambhaji Maharaj, Swatantryaveer Savarkar.
Complete details of former criminal cases against Ekbote may be read here.