Pune: The violent clashes in Bhima-Koregaon on New Year’s Day which left one person dead was not a riot, but a pre-planned attack, according to a report by the coordination committee to assist the police investigations.“Based on inputs from locals, we have gathered enough evidence to prove that the clashes were the culmination of a series of provocative acts orchestrated by Milind Ekbote and the followers of Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’,” RPI (A) leader Dr. Siddharth Dhende, Pune’s Deputy Mayor and a member of the committee, told The Hindu.According to another committee member, the board erected near the tomb of Govind Ganapat Gaikwad, a Dalit from the Mahar communit, who is said to have performed the final rites of the slain Maratha King Sambhaji (Shivaji’s son), was pulled down by Hindutva activists on Ekbote’s instigation three years ago as a precursor to the events of December 29 last year. “Ekbote used to visit Sambhaji’s tomb at Vadhu-Budruk village (4 km from Koregaon-Bhima) and had even floated a ‘committee’ dedicated to its preservation. However, his real purpose during the course of his visits appears to foment caste tensions,” said the member, requesting anonymity.The report further points to inflammatory messages circulating on social media which strongly hint at a conspiracy.On December 15, a provocative message posted by a person allegedly belonging to a Hindutva outfit and doing the rounds on Facebook spoke of “mourning for” Dalits gathering to celebrate the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle on January 1.The report refers to social media posts which went viral on December 30 and 31 asking activists to assemble at Vadhu-Budruk. Others spoke of a rally to be addressed by Ekbote and Bhide Guruji.The report further observes (based on inputs from locals and the regional press) that Ekbote was slated to hold a press meet on December 30 at Hotel Sonai in Perne Phata on the Pune-Nagar Road. The meet was apparently called off.“The people we spoke to mention that he held a conference somewhere else. We demand that the police pursue these leads with due diligence,” said Dr. Dhende.He further said that local shopkeepers in Vadhu and surrounding villages said that they were forced to down shutters on December 31 itself.“The next day, the villages adjoining Bhima-Koregaon practiced a veritable social boycott on the Bhim Sainiks and Dalits come to do homage to the Ranstambh (Victory Pillar). The visitors were not given food or water,” said Dr. Dhende.A mob of 1,500-2000 strong comprising of Hindutva activists believed to be the followers of Ekbote and Bhide Guruji was believed to have gathered on January 1 near Bhima-Koregaon at around 9: 30 a.m. with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc and disturbing the peace of the occasion, alleges the report. “The mob split into three groups and began furiously pelting stones, smashing shop windows, damaging vehicles in which the Dalits arrived, not even sparing police vehicles,” said a committee member.The report censures tardy police action which might have precluded the violence.The committee, comprising leaders from major Dalit outfits, was set up under the aegis of Vishwas Nangare-Patil, Inspector-General of Police (Kolhapur Range) on January 9. The octogenarian Bhide ‘Guruji’, a fervent admirer of the Maratha warrior King Shivaji who founded the Shiv Pratishthan, has a formidable following in the Western Maharashtra sugar-belt districts of Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur.Among his biggest followers include Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, both of whom regard Bhide Guruji as an exemplar of simple living and an inspirational teacher.The complaint against Bhide, Ekbote and their supporters in Pimpri was lodged by Anita Ravindra Salve, a member of the Bahujan Republican Socialist Party. Another criminal case was lodged against the duo in Auranagabad. Both cases have been transferred to the Shikrapur police in Pune district.The 85-year-old Hindutva leader has in turn accused Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) chief Prakash Ambedkar for wrongly blaming him for the Koregaon Bhima ‘conspiracy’. Rahul Phatangale, a 28-year-old youth, lost his life in the crossfire while he was out to buy vegetables at the time the violence erupted. Around 50 vehicles were burnt in the melee which raged for several hours.
The J&K police has raised an alarm over the ‘reprisal attacks’ on non-locals living in Kashmir, after the reports of intimidation of non-local workers in Srinagar’s Kara Nagar and Bandipora areas.A senior police officer at the police headquarters said the situation was “being monitored closely as a few incidents of intimation has started pouring in.” “There were two minor incidents of intimidation at a sweets shop in Srinagar and workers in Bandipora. Some bike-borne youth tried to intimidate non-local workers. However, locals intervened and doused the situation,” said the police officer. The police said it fears that viral videos of alleged violence emerging from across the country against Kashmiri students and traders are “fuelling tension and anxiety in Kashmir Valley.” The administration is mulling to extend winter vacations of schools and colleges in Kashmir to avoid any law and order situation. Meanwhile, posters were pasted by a few doctors at Srinagar’s premiere health institute Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) barring representatives of pharmaceutical companies Zydus, Macleods, Intas and Sun Pharma following the move by the Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited “to suspend” three Kashmiri sales executives, Rounak Bashir Bhat, Arif Bashir and Sheikh Shabir Ahmad, “for their Facebook posts”.“It has been reported that you started posting hateful messages on your Twitter handle in the wake of Pulwama attack. Your tweet is insensitive in nature and has brought disrepute to the image of our organisation,” reads the notice issued to one of the sales representative.Non-locals hold protest Meanwhile, scores of non-locals staying in Kashmir held a demonstration in Srinagar and demanded “an end to the attacks on Kashmiris outside the State.” “It is unfortunate that people from Kashmir were at the receiving end in the country after the Pulwama attack. This demonstration is to demand an end to such attacks,” one of the traders said.said a non-local goldsmith in Srinagar, who has been living in the J&K’s capital for the past 25 years.The protesters said that non-locals working were “feeling secure in Kashmir but the treatment meted out to Kashmiris is not a positive development.” According to an official figure, around six lakh non-Kashmiri workers travel to the State every year to work in different sectors, especially the construction business. Attacks in Kashmiris a collective shame: separatists Separatist amalgam Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik Wednesday said the unrelenting attacks in Kashmiri businessmen, students, tourists “was distressing”.“The videos and photographs of Kashmiris being beaten, humiliated, looted, vandalized and oppressed in various Indian states will only push more Kashmiri youth to the wall and the path of rebellion,” they said.The Mirwaiz said such attacks “is a collective shame for India”. The separatist leaders said Kashmiris throughout the history “safeguarded religious harmony and protected all outsiders living or working here and we will stand firm and provide safety, relief and other assistance to every Former chief minister and National Conference vice president asked the Prime Minister to condemn the attacks. “Dear PM Narendra Modi sahib, can we please have a few words of condemnation for the systematic attacks directed against Kashmiri students and others or does your concern not extend as far north as Kashmir?” he said.