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Last Updated : Jan 04, 2018 12:03 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Who are Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote? Duo accused of instigating Maharashtra caste clash

An FIR was filed against Milind Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide, founder of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, accusing the two men of orchestrating violence at the celebrations in Bhima Koregaon.

Dalit protesters take part in a bike rally on the Eastern Express Highway in Thane. (PTI)
Dalit protesters take part in a bike rally on the Eastern Express Highway in Thane. (PTI)

Mumbai was gripped by violent protests on Wednesday, after the death of a Dalit during celebrations of a 200-year-old war in Bhima Koregaon on January 1. The spectre of protests spread across the state, but where and how did this violence start?

Social worker Anita Ravindra Salve filed an FIR against two pro-Hindutva leaders, Milind Ekbote of Samast Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide, founder of Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, accusing the two men of orchestrating violence at the war anniversary celebrations in Bhima-Koregaon.

Salve claimed that some people snatched and burnt their flags, assaulted her and her friend when they reached near Bhima Koregaon on Monday. She was quoted by the Indian Express as saying she saw the accused pelting stones and attacking the police.

Both Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide are renowned in the political realm of rural Maharashtra. Sambhaji Bhide, 85, is a physicist by training and hails from Sangli.

He was, however, in the news for leading the protests against the 2008 Ashutosh Gowarikar film, Jodha Akbar. He was also charged with vandalizing theatres and stopping the movie screenings. Many of the members of his political outfit have been accused in case of beef-related violent clashes in Maharashtra, according to a report by Mumbai Mirror.

Called Bhide Guruji by his followers, he joined Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh as a Pracharak, and founded the organization ‘Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan’. The self-proclaimed focus of this outfit is to spread the ideology followed by Shivaji Maharaj and Sambhaji Maharaj. For an 85-year-old man, Bhide has a remarkable following on social media, with over 31000 followers on Facebook, belonging to different age groups.

He is also known to be close to PM Narendra Modi. During PM Modi’s visit to Sangli before the 2014 elections, Modi reportedly said “Bhide Guruji did not invite me here. I came here on his orders.”

Milind Ekbote, a 56-year-old man, has intermittently been in power as a BJP and Shiv Sena corporator. Ekbote is from Pune and he joined BJP in 1997. He is known to have led protests against Valentine’s Day celebrations in the city. According to the Mirror report, he has several cases of rioting and charges of violent trespassing against him, and was convicted in five cases.
First Published on Jan 4, 2018 11:59 am
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