A day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said there was no concrete proof against Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide ‘Guruji’, accused of orchestrating the Bhima-Koregaon riots, activists of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan (SPH) staged a series of rallies across Maharashtra, demanding immediate withdrawal of charges against the 85-year-old leader.
The protest received overwhelming support in Sangli, the headquarters of SPH, where Mr. Bhide’s supporters turned out in large numbers from the neighbouring districts of Satara and Kolhapur for the Sanman Mahamorcha demanding “justice” for the octogenarian.
Children join protests
Hundreds of SPH activists, including children, were seen holding huge placards of Bhide Guruji while bill boards expressing support for the Hindutva leader dotted the cityscape. A delegation later formally submitted their demands to the Sangli District Collector.
Today’s rally in support of Bhide was to counter the ‘Elgaar rally’ in Mumbai on Monday led by Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) chief Prakash Ambedkar and supported by several Ambedkarite parties, demanding Mr. Bhide’s immediate arrest.
In Pune, despite no permission to hold the march, Mr. Bhide’s followers gathered in large numbers near the Mutha river.
“The accusations against him are baseless. The State government ought to formally give him a clean chit and withdraw the false FIRs lodged against him,” said Sanjay Vitthal Jadhar, who heads the Pune wing of the SPH.
“In our memorandum to the Pune Collector, we have urged that all those who made inflammatory statements during the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ on December 31 at Shaniwarwada Fort be probed,” Mr. Jadhar said.
The police, intent on precluding a possible law and order situation, had on Tuesday evening denied permission for a proposed march from Shaniwarwada Fort to the District Collectorate.
At the Pune gathering activists raised slogans in support of Mr. Bhide’s and other Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Dhananjay Desai.
Mr. Desai, who heads the Hindu Rashtra Sena, is currently in jail for his role in the 2014 murder of IT professional Mohsin Shaikh.
Reports of similar protests have also come in from in Ahmednagar district and parts of Amravati and Nagpur city.