Hate Speech: Sunday Speech of Prime Accused Manohar Bhide Postponed
"Bhide has a huge fan following in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara, especially among the youth. Fighting fit even at 85, he walks barefoot, rides a bicycle around the town, travels in state-run buses, and doesn't own a house"
January 9, 2018
Facing flak for allowing the prime accused of the Bhima-Koregaon clashes, Manohar Bhide to address a rally in Mumbai, the police have finally cancelled right-wing leader Bhide’s public speech, scheduled to take place in Parel this Sunday. This comes days after the police refused permission to an event organised by student outfit Chhatra Bharati, at which Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani and JNU student leader Umar Khalid were to address students at Vile Parle.
Bhide is the prime accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence. Based on a complaint by social worker Anita Ravindra Salve, a member of the Bahujan Republican Socialist Party, the Pimpri police filed an FIR against him on Tuesday for conspiring and inciting violence.
Meanwhile, a photograph circulating on twitter by Priyadarshi Telang displayed a ‘photo where Bhide is being greeted by the DM of Sangli” (see photo)
Police said they decided to deny permission after an assessment revealed that Bhide’s presence in the city would lead to a law-and-order problem and trigger more Dalit protests. They said it would take a lot of effort to pacify protesters. They said that should Bhide make a provocative statement, it would add fuel to the fire and cause tension not just in the city, but also the state.
“As we did not want trouble, we decided to not permit the organisers to conduct the program,” an officer told the Hindustan Times. Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, the organisation associated with Bhide, announced on Friday that his speech had been postponed, but not cancelled. It denied Bhide’s involvement in the violence, calling the case against him “false and misleading”.
In a statement issued in Sangli, Bhide denied allegations that he was involved in any violence. “The allegations of a conspiracy are completely baseless. I demand that the government investigate this matter thoroughly. Strong punishment must be given to whosoever is guilty.” “Bhide played no role in the violence. The police still approached us and said we should postpone the talk in case the speech leads anti-social and anti-Hindustan elements to take advantage of the situation and rain violence on Mumbai again. We support the government’s search for the culprits,” said Chetan Balaskar, member of Shiv Pratishthan.
Despite Salve’s assertion that Bhide was at Bhima-Koregaon on Monday, Balaskar said the right-wing leader was at his home town Sangli, which the police could attest to. He blamed Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar for inciting the Bhima-Koregaon violence. “Those who demand Bhide’s arrest are the actual culprits.”
The Chhatra Bharati and the Aam Aadmi Party demanded a ban on Bhide. “This hate monger should not be allowed to enter Mumbai and disturb its peace. He should not be allowed to address any meetings,” said Priti Sharma Menon, spokesperson, AAP.
Mumbai Mirror had reported the deep links of Bhide (and Ekbote) with the RSS. “Though an FIR has been lodged against both Bhide and Ekbote, nobody is surprised that they have not been arrested yet. Both have deep links with the RSS and wield considerable clout within the ruling dispensation in the state and at the Centre.
In 2014, when Narendra Modi launched his campaign to become the prime minister, he visited Bhide at his house in Sangli and touched his feet. Later, at a public rally Modi declared: "I did not come to Sangli on my own, but I was given orders by Bhide Guruji to visit your city and here I am."
“Ekbote's entire family is associated with the RSS. He was a BJP corporator in Pune from 1997 to 2002. Denied a ticket, he fought as an independent for a second term and won. He lost the corporation election in 2007 and to stay relevant floated Hindu Ekta Manch the same year. The Manch has since been at the forefront of anti-Valentine's Day protests. In 2014, he contested assembly elections on a Shiv Sena ticket and lost. Ekbote's sister-in-law Jyotsna Ekbote is a sitting BJP corporator in Pune.
Bhide has a huge fan following in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara, especially among the youth. Fighting fit even at 85, he walks barefoot, rides a bicycle around the town, travels in state-run buses, and doesn't own a house. A M.Sc. in nuclear physics and a gold medalist, Bhide was a professor of physics at Pune's Fergusson College before he joined the RSS as a pracharak. In the 1980s, he floated his own organisation called Shiva Pratishthan Hindustan to spread the message the life of Shivaji Maharaj. His talks on the lives of Shivaji Maharaj and his heir Sambhaji Maharaj often brim with hatred for a minority community.
Both Bhide and Ekbote till December 29 were not known to be anti-Dalit. Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasheb Ambedkar, expressed surprise at the duo's involvement in the desecration of Gaikwad's samadhi. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Ekbote said: "I am saddened by the inconvenience caused to Dalits due to rioting after their visit to Bhima-Koregaon and we condemn the act of rioting." He added that his organisation considers Dr. Ambedkar and Lahuji Vastad (19th century Dalit warrior who fought against Brits) as icons and that a large number of Dalit activists are a part of Hindu Ekta Manch.
First published in Sabrang India.
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