Mumbai, Mar 28: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday gave a clean chit Shiv Pratisthan founder Sambhaji Bhide in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence case. In the state Assembly, Fadnavis said that the police doesn’t have a single piece of evidence against Bhide. The Mumbai Police, however, denied permission for a march in support of the Hindutva leader.

“The first information report (FIR) was registered on the basis of complaint registered by a woman complainant. During the recording of her statement before the judicial magistrate, she said her complaint was based on hearsay and she had no evidence of his involvement,” Devendra Fadnavis said. The Chief Minister added that the investigation has not been shut and police are investigating fresh evidence.

Fadnavis’ statement came a day after Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar led a protest march demanding the arrest of Sambhaji Bhide. He gave a clean chit to Bhide after a complainant in the case, Anita Salve, in her statement to the Pune police, contradicted an earlier statement and said she doesn’t know Bhide. She had earlier accused him of orchestrating the Bhima Koregaon violence which took place on January 1.

In the complaint filed on January 2, Salve alleged that she saw Milind Ekbote and Bhide orchestrating the violence. In her statement given to police on March 21, she has said she did not see Bhide during the violence, reported a newspaper. “We have never said Bhide was directly involved in the riots. All we are saying is that he orchestrated the riots,” Ambedkar was quoted as saying on the government’s clean chit.

Bhide, also known as Bhide Guruji, along with Samsta Hindu Aghadi leader Milind Ekbote, was booked by Shikrapur police under sections Section 307 (attempted murder), 143, 147, 148, 149, 295 (a), 435, 436 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 4/25 read with Sections 3(2)(5), 3(1)(10) of Arms Act.

Bhide and Ekbote are accused of inciting violence against Dalits during the 200th-anniversary celebrations of the Anglo-Maratha War where the army of Peshwa Bajirao II was vanquished by a small force of the East India Company that comprised a large number of Dalits. Ekbote has been arrested in connection with the case.

Mumbai Police Denies Permission For Rally Supporting Sambhaji Bhide

In a separate development, the Mumbai Police denied permission for a march planned by Shivprathisthan Hindustan in support of its founder. However, the police allowed a gathering at Azad Maidan. “Permission has been denied to the march of ‘Shivprathisthan scheduled on March 28, from Byculla to Azad Maidan. Permission has been given for a gathering at Azad Maidan,” the Mumbai Police said in a statement.