Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh met Pune Police officials on Thursday morning to review cases related to the 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence, reported PTI. Maharashtra Director General Subodh Jaiswal and State Intelligence Commissioner Rashmi Shukla are also present at the meeting. However, details of the meeting at the state secretariat in Mumbai are not yet available.
Violence broke out between Dalits and Marathas in the village of Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1, 2018. This happened a day after an event in Pune called the Elgar Parishad was organised to commemorate the Battle of Bhima Koregaon in 1818 between the East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy. One person died in violence during a bandh called by Dalit outfits the following day.
The Pune rural police had booked Hindutva activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for allegedly inciting the violence. While the Supreme Court granted Ekbote bail, the police never arrested Bhide.
Later that year, the Pune Police arrested 10 activists in connection with the violence, and accused them of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). The Pune Police chargesheet also alleged that a letter recovered from one of those accused had revealed an “assassination conspiracy” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Most of the activists are still in prison.
Last month, eight of the 10 accused in the Bhima Koregaon case had written a letter to the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission, alleging that the previous BJP-led state government had imprisoned them because they were dissidents.
Earlier this month, Maharashtra Home Minister Deshmukh said he had asked for a detailed report on the Bhima Koregaon case, including its current status. Deshmukh, who is from the Nationalist Congress Party, criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party for labelling dissidents and its critics “urban Naxals”. On Wednesday, Deshmukh said the current state government will think about it in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima episode. “Demands are being raised about forming SIT to probe the matter,” he had said, according to NDTV. “We will take a review of it through our officers and decide future course.”
In December, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar had sought a special investigation team inquiry into the actions of the Pune Police. NCP leader and MLA Dhananjay Munde had also sought the withdrawal of cases.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has dubbed the efforts to withdraw the Bhima-Koregaon cases as a “blatant support to naxalism”. “Even the [Pune] court has admitted that there has been some primary evidence against the accused persons, which is the reason the court did not accept their bail applications,” BJP state chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, according to News18.