First published on January 22, 2018
The name of Milind Ramakant Ekbote surfaced once again after a period of relative silence—17 years to be precise– on January 1, 2018 when the violence unleashed against peaceful Dalits assembled at Bhima Koregaon to commemorate 200 years of the battle, was reportedly provoked by the machinations of extremists of the Hindutva brigade. An FIR has been lodged against him and Manohar ‘Shambhaji’ Bhide for provocations that led to attacks on Dalits.
A History of (inciting) Violence
In 2001, the Maharashtra police had, after thorough investigation, taken a decision to arrest him. Ekbote is a resident of Shivaji Nagar, Pune; President of Dharmaveer Sambhaji Maharaj Pratishthan and the founder of Shiv Pratap Bhoomi Mukti Andolan. The Pune rural and urban police opined (October 30, 2001) that ‘strict action must be taken against him under the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords, Bootleggers, Drug-Offenders and Dangerous Persons Act, 1981(MPDA) Act, 1981 (Amended 1996).’ To effect this action, a Police Inspector of the Deccan Police Station, Pune, sent a proposal to 6 Police Commissioners and 1 Deputy Police Commissioner. This can be read in the original here. The SP Rural Pune had sent this proposal to CP, Pune arguing that following Ekbote’s activities in 2001, with a rise of his casteist movement in the city of Pune, the rural areas of Pune and Satara were in ferment and decisive actions should be taken. Even before 2001, there have been multiple cases against him since 1989, mainly infringing upon public peace by creating communal tension.
Following this report, CP Pune had prepared a detailed proposal, extracted detailed information on all the crimes that Milind Ekbote has been accused of and had given his final and conclusive approval to the proposal on November 2, 2001. Proud of being a staunch Brahmanist and ‘provoking communal tensions by promulgating the Bahujan youth of the area against the Muslim and the Dalit populations’, Ekbote was spared arrest in October 2001 by the reported interventions of none less than former deputy home minister LK Advani.
Reportedly, according to sources, it was a visit by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on November 1, 2001 to inaugurate the Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Pune that had set in motion the steps that worked to save Ekbote. Amidst this ceremony were also present the former Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani and the leadership of the National Congress Party (NCP). News of the proposed detention of Milind Ekbote under the MPDA had reached the ears of local RSS leaders who through senior leaders in the central government worked on top police officials, through a verbal order to the Pune Commissioner of Police to not take action against Milind Ekbote. Hence, it turns out that although it was received by the commissioner of Police on 3 November 2011, the final order on Milind Ekbote’s arrest was not signed. As is always the case ‘communal reactions’ were cited as reasons for avoiding the arrest.
Ekbote’s Modus Operandi
Ekbote allegedly assembles groups of Hindu Youth in the Pune and Satara Districts, and recites to them (distorted) stories from ‘Hindu History’ in relation to Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Sambhaji Maharaj, Swatantryaveer Savarkar. These stories are constructed by him in such a way, that they are bound to incite the listener against the Muslim Community and give rise to Communal Tensions.
He has allegedly instigated mobs against the Afzal Khan Memorial Trust in Pratapgarh. He has further encouraged a communal procession after the jalabhishek celebrations at the Sorti Somnath Temple. He has also said that the Subhansha Dargah, which is situated in the centre of Shukrawar Peth, must be demolished as it causes an inconvenience to the passing travellers and traffic.
In the City of Pune, there are multiple instances of communal schisms. Muslim members of the community are being warned against Cow Slaughter, December 6 is ‘celebrated’ by the ringing of temple bells and young Hindu Members are being aggravated against the Muslims. Such provocations have kept intra-community tempers on the boil.
October 15, 2001 Police Recommendations on Ekbote
Communication from Pune City Rural, Dr. Madhav Sanap, Superintendent of Police, Pune Rural to Commissioner of Police, Pune. A copy of this communication was also sent to the State Intelligence Bureau and Special IG, Kolhapur Range.
In this communication (attached here), Sanap recounts Milind Ekbote’s provocative behaviour and inciteful speech on October 7, 2001 to a crowd near the Sorati Somnath Temple, following which the mob gathered there ‘the crowd moved deeper into the villages, where they demolished the Muslim Cemetery and Idgah, and set numerous Muslim shops and houses on fire. Shri Milind Ramakant Ekbote, after delivering a speech during the ceremony, immediately departed from the area. Although his involvement wasn’t material, he is nevertheless directly responsible for the events.’ The police thereafter registered an offence against him with relation to his criminal actions on October 9, 2001, an FIR. The FIR was registered against him for defaulting under Section 75/2001, under IPC Sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 333, 353, 332, 435, 297, 116, 153(a), 1(a)(b)(c), and 2 and 505(2)(1)(k)(g), and Section 135, and Press and Registration Books Act 1867 to 3R/W 12. He was arrested at 00:30 (just past midnight) on October 11. The police goes on to say that ‘there have been multiple allegations made against him for instigation of communal violence in Pune City and the Satara District.’ The rural Pune police also opposed him being granted bail saying that Ekbote’s agenda is ‘to create a Hindu-Muslim communal conflict by hiding away oneself. Shri Ekbote is a staunch Hindu Fundamentalist, and if he is granted Bail, he is certain to take advantage of the currently brewing situation which will ultimately lead to riots in the society.’ It was following these series of incidents that preventative action under the MPDA was strongly recommended.
The details of the cases that are related to Inciting Communal Tensions are given below:
1. Deccan Police Station : under sections 812/90, IPC 153 (a) (b), 34 435/92, Judicial, 435/92, 29.9.92
2. Deccan Police Station: under sections 548/91, IPC 143, 336, 427, 120 (b), Case No 26,00/91 18.9.91
3. Khadak Police Station: under sections 133/2001, IPC 143, 148, 149, 452, 427, 323, Section 37(1) 135, Judicial, Case Nos 89/2001 dated 14.6.01
4. Deccan Police Station: under sections 368/01, IPC 341, 34, Judicial, /2001 dated October 25, 2001
5. Satara City: 214/01, Section 143, 147, 341, 151, 186, ‘To be Enquired’
6. Saswad (rural Pune): 75/01, IPC 143, 147, 148, 149, 333, 332, 353, 435, 297, 116, 153 (a), 1(a)(b)(c), and 2, 505(2)(1)(k)(g), and Section 135 Press and Registration Books Act 1867, 3
Detailed information on the cases lodged against him:
1. Khadak Police Station, Case Number 133/2001 ( IPC Section 143, 147, 149, 452, 427, 323, Section 37(1), 135. )
The prosecutor Shri Sudhir Sabale, resides at 20 Gultekdi, Pune. On June 7, 2001, at approximately 11.10 am, he was present at 105 Bhavani peth, Pune, at the Sabre Vagire Company. Here he had his Bidi Manufacturing unit that was registered under the name Sambhaji bidi. Milind Ekbote, along with 16 others entered the premises and demanded that the name of the unit be changed. After making such demands, they proceeded o destroying the office. In this process, the prosecutor lost Rs 15000. An FIR was lodged, and at 12:15 Ekbote was arrested. He was released on the same day on a bail of Rs 5000. After an enquiry was made into the case, on June 14, 2001 a charge sheet was filed against Ekbote and the 16 others (R 89/2001)
2. Satara Police Station, Case number 214/2001 (IPC Section 143, 147, 341, 151, 186
On July 9, 2001, at around 12.00 p.m. at Powai Naka, Satara there was a procession. Pratapgarh Utsav Samiti, Shiv Pratap Bhumi Mukti Andolan and other Hindutva Vadi association members gathered and demanded that the government must take possession of the land that has been given to the Afzal Khan Memorial Trust in Pratapgarh. It was also demanded that any monetary aid asked for restoration and maintenance must not be provided for. This rally was conducted near the Collectors Office. After celebrating and garlanding the Shivaji Statue in Powai Naka, Satara, the procession left the location at around 12:00 and reached the region behind the Collectors Office at 13:00 hours. This rally, of approximately 200-250 people, was led by Milind Ekbote. They stopped the traffic and the people who were trying to bypass the road behind the Office, that connected Powai Naka to Godoli. Although the police present there did warn them that their acts were illegal, they continued their protest. They proceeded to tear apart a green coloured cloth and set it on fire in the middle of the street. N M Jadhav, a Sub Inspector at the Satara City Police Station, lodged an FIR – following which Milind Ekbote was arrested on October 12, 2001, at 5.20 p.m.. On October 15, 2001 he was awarded a bail by the court.
3. Deccan Police Station, Case number 368/2001 (IPC Section 341, 34). The following events occurred on September 8, 2001, with prosecutor Ilyas Khawaja Saudagar, alias “Kureshi”, who resides at 904 Kasba Peth, Pune. His employer, Shakeel Qureshi, who resides at Mukkam Post Mahalunge, Taluka Haveli, District Pune bought 4 bullocks from Bhanudas Kasbe. He asked Ilyas to bring the animals to Market Yard for sale. While the prosecutor and the nephew were on their way via Goodluck Chowk, at 2 p.m. hours, they were stopped by Milind Ekbote and 2 other individuals. He stopped them, and asked them “Don’t you know me? I am Milind Ekbote.” Saying this, they refused to let them pass through and insisted that come with them to the Deccan Police Station, and they were forced to oblige. The above events were narrated to the Police, and on October 25, 2001 a case was lodged against him CC 4093/2001 in A.C. Court Pune.
4. Saswad Police Station Case No. 7/2001 ( IPC section 143, 147, 148, 149, 333, 353, 332, 435, 297, 116, 153 (a) (b) (c) and 2 and 505 (2) (k) (g) section 135 press of registration books act 1867 section 3)
On October 7, 2001, at 8:00 a.m. 50 to 60 members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad conducted a jalabhishek ceremony at the Sangameshwar Mandir, Saswad. The ceremony ended at 10 a.m., after which a meeting was held during which Milind Ekbote gave a speech. This speech was entirely provocative in nature. People were instigated in the name of religion and dharma. Following this, all the individuals present at the ceremony were joined by many others at a gathering at Amar Chowk Nagarpalika. It was a gathering that ranged from 800 to a 1000 people. They proceeded to Garade Road, from where they entered the cemetery and started demolishing the place and pelting stones. Although the police asked them to stop, they continued the violence, injuring a few police officers as well. The Police charged at the crowd using lathis. A few people from the same crowd went to Hadako Colony, and surrounding the ST Stand, on Hiware road, at Idgah Maidan, started pelting stones and severely damaged the area. In addition to this, multiple general stores and houses belonging to Ganibhai Bhagwan, and 12-14 other Muslim Community members, were completely destroyed. NS Bhosale Patil, lodged a complaint against the crimes on October 9, 2001, and at 12:30 a.m. he was arrested and was brought before the court in the morning. The crime is still being investigated by the police and remains pending.
The Build-up to Ekbote’s arrest
After the Crime mentioned above (Number 4), there was an increase in the number of reported accounts of stone pelting, riots, mass gathering of crowds, and general violence and imbalance in the region. There was a total damage done of Rs 44 lakhs, including damage to both Public and Private property. This was all a direct result of the provocative speech delivered by Ekbote and the rumours that were spread by him. A Curfew was placed in the region. The Muslim population was agitated due to these events, and a large number of them abandoned their homes and fled.
“Milind Ekbote is a man who can only create disorder and fear. He is capable of creating violence, where once there was only peace. He has been successful in creating a rift between the Muslims and the Hindus in the Region. This makes him a dangerous person, and people are scared of him. No person is willing to complain against him. In the view of such circumstances, the police have assured anonymity and protection to the people who are willing to speak and have been able to collect statements against Ekbote. Following this, 6 Police Commissions from the Deccan Department have conducted inquiries,”said a police source involved in preparation of the report.
The preceding year, in Samatha Nagar, Ekbote and a few other individuals created havoc by entering the regions slaughterhouses. When they arrived at Kondhwa in 2001, all the meat shops were shut down and people fled because of the fear they had. On October 23, 2001, an anonymous person called the Police Control Room and the Wanwadi Police Station, and informed them of the situation at Kondhwa. Police staff was sent to the region, and the situation was brought under control. This was noted in the Wanwadi Police Station, under station diary note number 23/2001, 23 October 2001, at approximately 5.55 p.m.
On March 9, 2001, in Central Pune, there were riots. It was later informed that these riots were conducted by the Students of the Islamic Movement of India. It is a possibility that, Milind Ekbote, as revenge, will mobilise Hindu separatist groups in the region. From the situation it can be gauged that, taking advantage of a situation of international conflict, the agenda is to create a Hindu-Muslim communal conflict.
Following these detailed reports, the Senior Police In-Charge studied the proposal and added his comments: ‘I have gone through the entire proposal against the proposed detainee. There are serious offences registered against the P.D. such as communal riots, spreading hatred between Hindu/Muslim community, terrorising Muslim people including businessmen legally authorised in slaughtering of cattles, without any authority by the proposed detainee, pressurising bidi manufacturers to delete the names of Sambhaji Maharaj& thereby indulging in communal & criminal activities, which are hazardous to the maintenance of public order & it is noticed from the criminal record of the P.D. that because of his such prejudicial activities, the even tempo of the society is disturbed’. Considering all these factors, proposed can be initiated against the proposed detainee under MPDA Act 1981.
Thereafter the Police Inspector P. C. B., Police Commissioner, Crime also scrutinised the proposal. The latter called him ‘a rank communalist’. The Additional CP too concurred after which there is a noting that says that ‘Commissioner SID & DG are of the views that review of the situation in the state and possibility of repercussions in rural areas / SataraDist, we may wait’. Documents were kept in the personal custody of the Additional CP.
And the rest as they say, is history. A man like Ekbote is free despite a more than chequered past. He continues in his career fomenting hatred and violence.