Old rioting cases against right-wing leader Sambhaji Bhide, a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist who heads Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, have been withdrawn by the Maharashtra Police six months before the violence in Bhima- Koregaon near Pune, according to a response to an RTI query. Bhide is an accused in the January 1 Bhima-Koregaon caste violence case.
According to the RTI reply, six cases that were filed against Bhide and his organisation were protest against Bollywood movie 'Jodha Akbar' in 2008 and another against an artist's depiction of the assassination of Shivaji in 2009.
The protesters indulged in rioting, stone-pelting and burning of several tyres. The cases were filed in Sangli in western Maharashtra, it said. A senior police official, however, on Monday told news agency PTI that the charges against the 85-year-old in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case have not been dropped.
"The cases against Bhide that were withdrawn were old cases in Sangli and have nothing to do with the Koregaon-Bhima violence," Superintendent of Pune (rural) police Sandip Patil said.
"The investigation in the Koregaon-Bhima violence case, in which Bhide and (Hindu Ekta Aghadi leader) Milind Ekbote are accused, is in progress," the officer said.
NDTV quoted Maharashtra's finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar as saying that the withdrawls were done in accordance with the government resolution (GR) issued by the previous Congress-NCP government. "The GR says that cases of protests and movements initiated for public can be withdrawn," he said.
The information revealed by the RTI added that at least eight circulars were issued by the Maharashtra government since June last year asking for withdrawal of cases against Bhide, leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena and thousands of party workers, the NDTV report added.
(With PTI inputs)