Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Friday alleged that the Centre had transferred the investigation of the Bhima Koregaon case to the National Investigation Agency without the state government’s consent.
“I strongly condemn the decision to transfer the investigation of Koregaon-Bhima case to NIA, by the Central Government without any consent of Maharashtra State Government,” Deshmukh tweeted. Deshmukh claimed the transfer of the case without consultation was against the Constitution, News18 reported.
The minister, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party, also alleged that the Centre took the decision after the new Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra decided to “go to the root of the matter”.
The case was being investigated by the Pune Police. Ten rights activists were arrested in 2018 in connection with the case, when the Bharatiya Janata Party was in power in the state. The party lost power in November.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Anil Deshmukh met Pune Police officials on Thursday morning to review cases related to the violence. Maharashtra Director General of Police Subodh Jaiswal and State Intelligence Commissioner Rashmi Shukla were also present at the meeting.
Pawar told the police that a letter recovered from Delhi-based activist Rona Wilson last year, allegedly showing a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to be a spoof obtained from suspicious sources. Pawar reportedly told the police that the source of this email containing the letter and other evidence in the 5,000-page chargesheet against 10 activists under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act must be substantiated in 15 days, else the Maharashtra government would appoint a Special Investigation Team to take another look at the case.
Bhima Koregaon case
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). 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, Deshmukh said he had asked for a detailed report on the Bhima Koregaon case, including its current status.