Milind Ekbote refuses to depose: Cites change in political spectrum, blames Naxals

Milind Ekbote refuses to depose: Cites change in political spectrum, blames Naxals

Milind Ekbote also accused “leftist, pro-Naxals and anti-national forces” of instigating violence at Koregaon Bhima. (File photo)

Hindutva leader Milind Ekbote appeared before the Koregaon Bhima Commission of Inquiry in Mumbai on Friday but refused to depose. Ekbote, who is facing charges of instigating violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018, claimed that the allegations levelled against him were politically motivated.

Citing multiple reasons behind his refusal, Ekbote claimed that if he did depose, he could be “falsely implicated” as the “political spectrum” in the state had changed. Ekbote also accused “leftist, pro-Naxals and anti-national forces” of instigating violence at Koregaon Bhima.

Ekbote and fellow Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide were booked by Pune Rural Police for allegedly instigating violence in Koregaon Bhima area. While Bhide was never arrested due to “lack of evidence”, Ekbote was arrested in March 2018 but released on bail about a month later.

The commission, headed by Calcutta High Court retired Chief Justice J N Patel, is probing the causes of the violence, in which one person died and several others were injured. The commission had issued summons to Ekbote in December, asking him to be present on January 9 and 10.

Ekbote made the submissions before the commission through lawyer Niteen Pradhan. Advocate Ashish Satpute, the lawyer for the commission, said Ekbote was discharged in view of his application.

Denying the allegations against him, Ekbote stated in his application, “It (the allegations) is politically motivated and the police authorities, despite my arrest and prolonged investigation, could not find an iota of evidence against me. This fact was mentioned in the order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge at Pune, while granting bail to me... The investigation in the said crime is yet to be over and the chargesheet has not been filed till today.”

In his application, the Hindutva leader also brought up Elgaar Parishad, an evening conclave held on December 31, 2017, in the city.

Pune City Police has alleged that provocative speeches at the conclave helped incite violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day. They have also claimed that the conclave was organised with help from the banned CPI-Maoist. Police have booked 23 people so far in the Elgaar Parishad case and arrested nine of them. The nine arrested accused, all of them prominent rights activists and lawyers, have been accused of being active members of the CPI-Maoist.

In his application, Ekbote claimed that he was being targeted because he was a Brahmin and a “nationalist”. “...The organisers of Elgaar Parishad, with the help of Leftist organisations, in order to help the Naxal movement, have created ruckus from January 1 to January 3 in Koregaon Bhima-Vadhu Budruk particularly, and elsewhere in Maharashtra... these leftist, pro-Naxals and anti-national forces have cornered me because of my accidental birth in the Brahmin community and my personal nationalist political philosophy, and opposing any form of Marxism such as hardcore Naxal philosophy......Dr Ambedkar had also opposed the Marxist philosophy and political systems during his lifetime,” he stated in the application.

“The recent political developments in Maharashtra have indicated that... the honest and impartial investigations carried out between 2017 and 2019 by police authorities are likely to be obliterated and/or revisited, in order to ensure safe passage for the different hues of Marxists spread all over the political and social spectrum.... In the present scenario, I do not feel it is desirable to depose before the commission at this stage to protect my interest in the court of law and in the society at large. I am also of sincere personal opinion that my case is likely to be hampered, particularly in view of the pending investigation... and the political spectrum has totally changed, which may go overboard to implicate me falsely.”