On Tuesday, February 18, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar addressed a press conference in Mumbai and reiterated his allegations that the BJP-led government in Maharashtra had misused police force to frame social activists in the Bhima Koregaon case. He also said that the police investigation in the issue is suspicious and demanded a probe. It was his fourth statement within a week on the same issue.
"I wanted to bring to the notice of the people of the state that how police has booked social activists, authors in the Elgar Parishad case. It was supposed to be inaugurated by PB Sawant, former judge of Supreme Court but due to illness he couldn't attend it. People who participated in the program were from hundreds of different social organisations. They pledged to stand by the Indian Constitution and to not sell themselves to any kind of elements. Is pledging by Constitution an anti-national act? How can we say such things?," he said.
Pawar read the poem recited by Sudhir Dhawale at the Elgar Parishad program, who is one of the social activists accused in the case. "Police have cited the poem of Namdeo Dhasal, someone who had won several prestigious government awards for his poems. Is his poem anti social? I won't say that. In the world of literature and in Maharashtra, Dhasal is known as a poet who expressed the problems of marginalised classes, especially the women of those classes. Calling his words a provocation for violence is entirely wrong, a misinterpretation. This has been done during investigation," he said.
Also read: Fault-lines in Maha Vikas Aghadi Exposed with NIA Probe in Elgar Parishad Case
The NCP chief had earlier written a letter and demanded the formation of SIT in the Bhima Koregaon cases. Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, both from Pawar's party had also called a meeting of police officers and taken stock of the case on January 23. They were set to announce the SIT when the central government stepped in and transferred the investigation to the hands of NIA, arbitrarily. Since then, s state versus Centre controversy has erupted in Maharashtra.
But now, it seems that CM Uddhav Thackeray, too, has taken a brief about the matter in detail. In the press conference which he addressed on Tuesday morning in Ratnagiri district, he clearly stated that the Elgar Parishad case is all together different from Bhima Koregaon. "I want to assure my dalit brethren that I will not compromise about their justice. NIA has taken over the Elgar case and they have the right to do that. But at the same time, Bhima Koregaon case is entirely different. So, we will look into it," he said.
Maharashtra government has already sought an opinion from the Judiciary Department about the formation of separate SITs even after NIA has taken over one of the cases. According to sources in the Home Ministry, on primary basis, law and judiciary department officials are citing column 10 of NIA act where states are enabled to have separate investigation even if the case is same. But, they stated that “here cases are different so it is still under prerogative of state government whether to probe or form SIT or not.”
"We are aware about the provisions under law as well as political repercussions of the case. But to send the message that the new government won't entertain the rampant misuse of authority as well as to curb the ground-level activities of anti-social elements, we need to make this case into an example. That's why all the efforts are being taken," said a senior leader and cabinet minister of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government.
Also read: Centre-State Fireworks in Offing After NIA Takes Over Bhima Koregaon Case