Pune: Hindu Ekta Aghadi leader Milind Ekbote, one of the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case, was arrested by the Pune rural police from here today, an official said. Ekbote was arrested soon after the Supreme Court turned down his anticipatory bail plea earlier in the day, the official added.
“We arrested Ekbote from his residence here and he will be produced before the court tomorrow,” a senior Crime Branch official said.
Last month, while extending the right-wing leader’s protection from arrest, the apex court had asked the Pune rural police to submit a detailed report on the case and allowed them to question Ekbote.
Following directions from the court, Ekbote had appeared before the Shikrapur police for questioning for five times.
Today, the police submitted a detailed report in the apex court and sought the “custodial interrogation” of Ekbote, while opposing his bail plea.
“The court accepted our demand for his custodial interrogation and rejected his bail application,” the officer said.
Before submitting the report to the Supreme Court, a senior police officer had said, “In order to investigate the case properly, his custodial interrogation is required.”
A case was registered against Ekbote and another Hindutva leader, Sambhaji Bhide, for allegedly inciting the anti-Dalit violence that left a man dead near the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in the district on 1 January during an event to commemorate the bicentenary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle.
Subsequent protests had disrupted normal life in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra.
Opposition Congress and NCP today lambasted the Maharashtra government and the police department for the “delay” in the arrest of right-wing leader Milind Ekbote in connection with Bhima Koregaon violence.
Both the parties raised question marks over the functioning of the police department in this case.
“There is no bravery in arresting Ekbote as he was in Pune for a long time. He had issued a video clip…he was very much in Pune, but police did nothing. He was arrested today because the SC rejected his bail,” Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap said.
“It raises question marks over why the police took so long (to arrest him) and who were calling the shots,” he said.
Jitendra Awhad, NCP MLA from Mumbra in Thane, said, “It is a conspiracy and Ekbote was given a free hand to take every measure to avoid his arrest. The home department is headed by CM Fadnavis. It raises questions about his department.”
“The way people like Ekbote and (another pro-Hindutva leader) Sambhaji Bhide were roaming free…they were interviewed by news channels. Why didn’t the police step in and arrest them,” he asked.
“It is highly suspicious the way time was wasted in the arrest of Ekbote,” the legislator alleged.
Bhide and Ekbote are accused of inciting violence on 1 January this year during an event to commemorate the bicentenary of a battle of Bhima-Koregaon in Pune district.