Elgar case transferred to protect previous Fadnavis government: Sharad Pawar
Mumbai, Feb 16: NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday alleged that the Centre has handed over probe in the Elgar Parishad case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as the previous Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra wants to "hide something".
Pawar, who earlier demanded constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case in which human rights activists have been arrested for alleged links with Maoists, said the Centre should have taken the Maharashtra government into confidence before handing over the case to NIA.
The former Union minister also asked whether speaking against the government is an "anti-national" activity. "There seems to be something that the then Fadnavis government wants to hide, hence the investigation has been handed over to NIA. When the Koregaon-Bhima violence took place, Fadnavis government was in power," Pawar told reporters in Jalgaon.
It is the Centre's prerogative to investigate the Elgar Parishad case, but it should have taken the state into confidence, said Pawar, whose party is an alliance partner in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government. "Koregaon-Bhima, and Elgar Parishad, held in Pune a day before the violence, are two different issues. Is writing rebellious literature and speaking against the government an an anti-national activity?" he asked.
Every year people gather at Koregaon Bhima (village in Pune), but some people went to nearby villages and "turned them against those who regularly visit the place". Police have taken action against these people, including (right wing leaders) Sambhaji Bhide, Milind Ekbote, Pawar said.
In a change of stand, the Maharashtra government recently said it has no objection to NIA taking over probe into the Elgar Parishad case.
The Centre last month transferred the probe in the case from the Pune Police to NIA, a move then criticised by the state Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed, triggered violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in the district the next day.
The Pune Police have claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.
During the probe, the police arrested Left-leaning activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links.
These nine activists, currently in jail, are among 11 people booked by the NIA in the Elgar Parishad case.hers, and certain sections of the anti-terror act UAPA.