Since the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government took charge in Maharashtra in November 2019, the handling of the Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case has divided alliance partners NCP-Congress and Shiv Sena. With the state government now deciding on an independent inquiry, it is likely to mollify NCP and Congress, who have been demanding a ‘fair’ probe into it.
The case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last month, immediately after NCP chief Sharad Pawar demanded a probe by a special investigation team.
Pointing to the role of the previous government led by Fadnavis government and the Pune police in the case, Maharashtra cabinet minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik says that the state will soon probe the Pune police’s role in hiding the real culprits. “Sharad Pawar wanted an investigation of the role of Pune police because they have forged fake cases at the behest of the BJP. The Supreme Court also has observed this,” says Malik.
The case involves speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave at Pune on December 31, 2018. On January 1, 2018, violence occurred during the 200th-anniversary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle near the war memorial. In the Dalit-Maratha clashes, one person was killed and several others injured. The police alleged that the violence was incited by the speeches made in the conclave. The police also arrested several human right activists for alleged Maoist connections.
Malik says that Bhima Koregaon and Elgar Parishad are two different cases and that the state will issue an order on the probe. “Bhima Koregaon is a different case and it has been inquired by a judicial commission,” says Malik. Pawar has been vocal about the arrests of the activists from the beginning, claiming that Hindutva elements are behind the violence. Political observers say Pawar’s move is aimed at appeasing the Dalit votebank.
However, the kin of the activists are exasperated at the slow pace of the probe. Filmmaker Koel Sen, daughter of Shoma Sen, one of those arrested, says that the government has to ensure that there is no undue delay in granting bail. “My mother is being held on the basis of her name being mentioned in one letter. While the authenticity of the letter is questionable, she is not being granted bail in spite of two consecutive bail applications filed earlier,” she says.
“If needed, the government can further probe it with her being out on bail. Whether it is the NIA or the CBI, why has the process of investigation turned into a punishment for her?” asks Sen.