India

"Centre Fears...": Sharad Pawar On NIA Taking Koregaon-Bhima Case

Last month NCP chief Sharad Pawar had demanded a SIT probe the Koregaon-Bhima case (File)

Mumbai:

NCP chief Sharad Pawar has claimed the centre's decision to transfer the probe into the Koregaon-Bhima violence to the NIA was motivated by a fear of exposure. Speaking to reporters in Mumbai today, Mr Pawar also hit out against the labelling of people who spoke out against social injustice as "urban Naxals" and said: "I think the government fears it may be exposed. So the decision has been taken (to transfer the case to NIA)".

The NIA took over the case yesterday, a day after the Maharashtra government held a review meeting with senior Pune police officers to take a call on pursuing the matter.

Mr Pawar's party, which rules the state in an uneasy alliance with the Congress and the Shiv Sena, has also questioned why it took the NIA - a central investigative agency - two years to determine if the case came under its jurisdiction.

Sharad Pawar's comments echoed those by the Congress, which has alleged the sudden move indicates a "conspiracy" by the BJP, which was in power at the time.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed the BJP-led central government, claiming that anyone who opposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah's "agenda of hate" were branded "urban Naxals".

"Anyone who opposes the MOSH agenda of hate is an 'Urban Naxal'. Bhima-Koregaon is a symbol of resistance that the government's NIA stooges can never erase," Mr Gandhi said in a tweet.

The transfer of the probe to the NIA has sparked yet another face-off between the BJP-led centre and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's government, which had indicated it would withdraw all cases against activists and intellectuals accused of inciting clashes.

bhima koregaon

Koregaon-Bhima violence broke out on January 1, 2018 in Maharashtra's Pune district

The case has been politically charged, with the BJP facing allegations of jailing activists who were opposed to its ideology and branding them as "urban Naxals".

Earlier this month Maharashtra Home Minister and senior NCP leader Anil Deshmukh summoned senior Pune police officials to Mumbai for a review of all aspects of the case.

"I have sought a detailed report on the status of the Koregaon Bhima violence; its investigation and aftermath," Mr Deshmukh told reporters.

He also told reporters, earlier this week, the current government - a non-BJP alliance of the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress - believed in democracy and the right of everyone to express opinions.

Last month Mr Pawar had demanded a special investigation team (SIT) be set up under a retired judge to look into action by Pune cops against activists in the case.

The case involves violence that broke out near the Koregaon-Bhima War Memorial in Pune district on January 1, 2018. Pune Police claimed the violence was incited by speeches at an event called Elgar Parishad held the day before.

The cops also claimed the event had been organised by Maoists and later arrested nine Left-leaning activists, including Telugu poet Varavara Rao and activist Sudha Bharadwaj.

Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide were also booked - for allegedly inciting violence. However, while Ekbote was granted bail, Bhide was never arrested.

With input from PTI