Sharad Pawar hits out at Thackeray over transfer of Bhima-Koregaon case to NIA
KOLHAPUR : A spark of tension could be said to be visible between the allies of newly formed Maha Vikas Aghadi government as the Nationalist Congress Party, an ally of the coalition, chief Sharad Pawar on Friday hits out at the Udhav Thakre government over its alleged joint decision with the centre to transfer the Bhima-Koregaon case to the National Investigating Agency (NIA).
Pawar termed the decision as “unconstitutional” as he said that it violates the state’s jurisdiction over law and order issues. “The behaviour of some in the Maharashtra Police (involved in Bhima-Koregaon investigation) was objectionable.
I wanted the role of these officers to be investigated. But ministers in the Maharashtra government met police officers one morning, and the centre ordered its transfer to the NIA at 3 pm the same day”.
pawar called for the suspension of police officers who made the arrests and criticised the city police chief. “We will ask the chief minister for an SIT…to probe the police action,” said the NCP leader. “Facts should be verified.” A senior serving or retired officer, or a sitting or retired judge can head the investigation team, he added.
Violence broke out in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune on January 1, 2018, between Dalits and Marathas, a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad that was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 between the East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy.
A bandh called by Dalit outfits the following day also saw incidents of vandalism, and one person died. The activists – Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao – were arrested in June and August 2018 in connection with the violence.
They were accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). The Pune Police chargesheet also alleged that a letter recovered from one of those accused had revealed an “assassination conspiracy” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pawar agreed that there were “very strong opinions expressed in the speeches” at the Elgar Parishad event. “In a democracy, people take such positions,” said the Nationalist Congress Party leader. “I have seen this in the past, during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. But people were not booked for treason then…
This entire investigation needs to be looked into. It appears that police misused their powers and we can’t be mute spectators to this…The conduct of the Pune Police Commissioner and some of his aides is highly objectionable.” “It was wrong of the centre to take the investigation out of the state’s hands, and it was wrong of the Maharashtra government to support the decision,” Mr Pawar added.
The NCP is part of the alliance government headed by Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra. The centre had transferred the case, which relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at a conclave the night before the violence near the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial over two years ago, to the NIA on January 25.
The move came days after the Maharashtra government hinted that it might take a relook into the events that took place at the conclave. Several human rights activists were arrested by the previous BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis government in the case on charges of being linked to Maoists.A man was killed and several others were injured in the violence that followed the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle on January 1, 2018.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who belongs to Sharad Pawar’s party, told news agency PTI on Thursday that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had overruled him in the matter. The same day, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sanjay Kumar claimed that “the state home department has no objection to the case being entrusted to the NIA”.
(Bureau REport with Agency Inputs ).