Mumbai: A Centre-state power tussle has been triggered with the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) transferring the Bhima Koregaon case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) just when the new Maharashtra government had started a deeper probe into allegations against the riot cases.
Condemning the decision, the Maharashtra Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which are part of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government along with Shiv Sena, lashed out the Centre alleging a “conspiracy” by the BJP to cover up its own “wrong doings” when it was in power in the state.
The "sudden taking over of Bhima Koregaon riot case by NIA after Maha Vikas Aghadi govt started reinvestigation into inquiry of Pune police, clearly substantiates conspiracy of BJP. Why it took 2 yrs for NIA to find that case is fit under it's jurisdiction? Strongly condemn!" Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said in a tweet.
The Centre’s decision to hand over the case to NIA came close on the heels of Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar asking senior police officers on Thursday to show the proofs submitted to court in Bhima Koregaon riots cases. He, along with Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and Minister of State for Home Satej Patil inquired in detail about the cases, status of the investigation and arrested accused in the case.
But, within 36 hours, NIA, which reports to the Union Home Ministry took over the case. This stepping of NIA into the picture is not just late but is being seen as suspicious due to number of things.
“There was no letter from state government to the Central government regarding probe by NIA into Bhima Koregaon. I condemn the behaviour of the Central government as it has encroached into the rights of state government and it is against federalism," said Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh.
On Friday evening, NIA informed Maharashtra's Director General of Police and Additional Chief Secretary (Home) saying that it will look into the cases regarding Bhima Koregaon. Before that, for the whole day, Maharashtra witnessed political a political duel between MVA and BJP over the issue.
The allegations regarding phone tapping of MVA leaders during formation of government surfaced again. To which BJP challenged a probe. Not just this, the snooping on political leaders through social media platforms like WhatsApp and software like 'Pegasus' also figured in the verbal duel.
The Bhima Koregaon riots took place on January 1, 2018. The Maharashtra police arrested some social activists in June and August 2018.
The Pune police had alleged that “provocative” speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, had led to the violence in Bhima Koregaon, and accused that Maoists were behind the conclave.
Dalits visit the memorial in large numbers as it commemorates the victory of British forces, which included Dalit soldiers over the army of the Brahmin Peshwa rulers of Pune in 1818.
It may be recalled that NCP chief Sharad Pawar had recently levelled allegations that to divert the attention from real conspirator of these riots, the erstwhile BJP government led by Devendra Fadnavis had framed false cases on social activists with the help of investigating agencies. He demanded a re-probe into the matter. Thursday’s meeting was based on the letter written by Pawar to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The withdrawing security of Pawar in Delhi is also being linked to developments in Maharashtra. Pawar was given Y level security in 2013 when he was Union minister for agriculture.
"Is it the pressure tactics of Modi and (Home Minister) Shah as Pawar Saheb is asking for re-probe into Bhima Koregaon? The circumstances raise doubts over the developments," said NCP leader and minister Jitendra Awhad.
As NIA has now taken over the probe and the Maharashtra home minister has condemned it, political fireworks and escalation of situation between BJP and MVA, particularly NCP, will be seen in the next few days.
(with inputs from PTI)