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Maharashtra government has right to launch independent probe into Elgaar Parishad case: Sharad Pawar

NCP chief Sharad Pawar. File

NCP chief Sharad Pawar. File   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

NCP chief cuts short tour, calls for a meeting of the 16 NCP ministers in Mumbai on Monday

While the Central government had the right to assign certain cases to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), it was improper to take over the Elgaar Parishad case without taking the State government into confidence, said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, while remarking that the Maharashtra government too had a right to launch an independent probe into the case.

Speaking in Jalgaon district in north Maharashtra on Sunday, Mr. Pawar further questioned whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government was shielding the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government that was in power in Maharashtra at the time of the Bhima Koregaon clashes of January 1, 2018, and the probe into the Elgaar Parishad by the Pune Police.

‘Two different matters’

“The Bhima Koregaon clashes and the Elgaar Parishad case are two different matters. In the latter, the Pune Police have slapped cases of sedition and arrested persons who had no relation to the clashes, but were vocal in expressing their dissent of the Central government through their writings. Such persons have been languishing in jail. This is not right. Does merely expressing dissenting views amount to anti-national activity?” Mr. Pawar asked, reiterating his view that the State government must form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the actions of the Pune Police.

Mr. Pawar, who had urged the constitution of an SIT after publicly casting aspersions on the Pune Police’s investigations in the case, had recently expressed displeasure after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to consent transferring the Elgaar Parishad case.

“While the Centre is entitled to assign a case to the NIA if it feels the need, the State government was not consulted in this matter [Elgaar Parishad case]. The fact that the Central government abruptly took the case from the State government’s hands can only mean that they want to cover up something,” said Mr. Pawar.

Meeting on Monday

The NCP chief, who was due to visit Nashik district to meet with party workers and attend an event, cut short his tour and returned to Mumbai.

Mr. Pawar has called for a meeting of the 16 NCP ministers in Mumbai on Monday, triggering speculation of the possible significance of the meeting in the backdrop of disagreements between Chief Minister Thackeray and the NCP over the transfer of the Elgaar Parishad case to the NIA.

However, the NCP chief, who had earlier expressed disappointment in Mr. Thackeray’s decision to agree the transfer of the case to the NIA, was cautious in stating that it was the Chief Minister’s prerogative to do so.

Legal opinion sought

Meanwhile, State Home Minister and NCP leader Anil Deshmukh has said that the State government had sought legal opinion to form an SIT to probe the Pune Police’s actions in the Elgaar Parishad case.

Among those arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case include poet-activist P. Varavara Rao; noted trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj; activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut; advocate Surendra Gadling’; Professor Shoma Sen; and writer-publisher Sudhir Dhawale — all of whom are presently lodged in Pune’s Yerwada prison.

The Pune City Police’s case rests on a First Information Report registered at the city’s Vishrambaug Police Station in January 2018 in connection with the Elgaar Parishad held at Pune’s Shaniwarwada Fort on December 31, 2017 as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the 1818 battle of Koregaon-Bhima.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 12:56:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-govt-has-right-to-launch-independent-probe-into-elgaar-parishad-case-sharad-pawar/article30835989.ece

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