Days after six members of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) were booked for making provocative speeches at 'Elgaar Parishad' held at Shaniwarwada here, the radical cultural group today said the case was an "afterthought" as it was registered in the wake of an FIR against Hindutva leaders. The members of the Elgaar Parishad (conference) organising committee also dismissed the charges against the KKM and termed them as a "cross complaint". The police on January 8 booked KKM members Sudhir Dhavale, Sagar Gorkhe, Dipak Dengale, Harshali Potdar, Ramesh Gaychor and Jyoti Jagtap for allegedly making "provocative" speeches during the Elgaar conference held on December 31. The event was held to commemorate 200 years of the Koregaon Bhima battle in which the army of Peshwa Bajirao II was defeated by the British imperial forces comprising Dalit soldiers. Dalits view the battle as the defeat of "casteism" of upper-caste Peshwas. The Elgaar conference held at the erstwhile headquarters of Peshwas, who ruled the Maratha empire on behalf of Chhartapati (Maratha king), was attended by Gujarat MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, JNU student leader Umar Khalid, Rohit Vemula's mother Radhika Vemula, and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar. "The case against KKM members is an afterthought as it was registered to counter the offence registered against Hindutwa leaders Manohar alias Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote for orchestrating the violence in Koregaon Bhima. This case is false," said M N Kamble of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh, one of the organisers of the Shaniwarwada programme. Kamble denied that any "provocative" and "inciting" speeches were made at the event. KKM member Jyoti Jagtap said the case against the group was just a "cross complaint" as it was registered after the police booked Bhide and Ekbote. The Kabir Kala Manch had came under the state Anti- Terrorism Squad's scanner some years ago.
At least two members of the group, who later broke away, were arrested for alleged Naxal links. "Let me clarify that KKM members have been singing the songs that are referred to in the FIR for a long time. They had sung those songs at different platforms, but no case was registered against them then," she said. Vishrambaug Police had registered the FIR on the basis of a complaint lodged by one Tushar Damgude. The six KKM members were booked under sections 153(a), 505(1)(b) and 117 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The complaint also stated that the "inciting speeches and presentations" made during the Elgaar Parishad led to the violence on January 1 at Koregaon Bhima in the district. Akash Sable, one of the convenors of the Parishad, said the allegations against KKM members are "biased, false and motivated". "For example, one of the booked members Dipak Dengale was not even present on the dais on the said day and was not part of any organising committee. He did not sing any songs, but just because he was members of KKM, he has been named in the FIR," he claimed. Sable denied any link between the "provocative speeches" and the January 1 violence. One person was killed in the caste violence between two groups near Sanaswadi, adjacent to Koregaon Bhima. The mobs had damaged and torched several vehicles and shops on New Year's day. Besides, houses of local residents were also ransacked. The police had already booked Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and JNU students leader Umar Khalid for making "provocative" speeches and creating a rift between two communities during the Shaniwarwada event. The Pune Rural Police had registered an FIR against right-wing leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide 'Guruji' under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act and under various sections of the IPC including attempt to murder in connection with the caste clashes.
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