The Supreme Court on Tuesday reprimanded the Maharashtra Police for not doing enough to arrest Milind Ekbote, who is accused of instigating the violence against Dalits at Bhima Koregaon, near Pune, in January, The Indian Express reported. The court told the investigating officer to file a status report.
“Do your job,” a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and Mohan M Shantanagoudar told the state government’s counsel. “Arrest him, conduct investigations and then tell us.” Ekbote heads the Hindutva organisation Samasta Hindu Aghadi.
The court said that its previous order granting Ekbote anticipatory bail till February 20 should not have stopped the police from arresting him, Hindustan Times reported. “Inspite of our order and his availability, you [did] not arrest him,” the judges told the counsel. “There is no single attempt made to arrest him. Should we hold the investigation now?”
The court said that it would hear the case again in March, and its interim order – stating that if Ekbote is arrested, he should be released on bail if he furnishes a bond of Rs 1 lakh – would continue till then.
On January 1, clashes broke out in Bhima Koregaon and its surrounding areas during the bicentenary celebrations of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. Lakhs of people gather there every New Year’s Day to commemorate the victory of the East India Company, whose troops comprised mostly Mahar soldiers, over the Brahmin Peshwa-led Maratha Empire in 1818.
Violence erupted after some people, reportedly with saffron flags, pelted stones at cars heading towards Bhima Koregaon. Dalit leaders and workers at the village alleged that they had seen Ekbote, as well as Shiv Pratishthan chief Sambhaji Bhide, in the area then. While the Hindutva leaders have denied the claim, two First Information Reports were filed against them in Maharashtra – one in Pimpri and another in Aurangabad.