Maharashtra Government Holds Meeting to Review Bhima Koregaon Case

Several high profile figures in the new government have demanded that the action taken by the police should be reinvestigated.

Mumbai: Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and home minister Anil Deshmukh met senior police officials in Mumbai on Thursday to review the Koregaon Bhima violence case to decide if a reinvestigation is required into the action taken by the police.

Last month, NCP chief Sharad Pawar demanded that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) should be set up under a retired judge to probe the action taken by Pune Police in the case. NCP leader Deshmukh, after taking charge as home minister, said earlier this month that he would seek a status report on the case and then make a decision.

The violence was reported on January 1, 2018, when members of Dalit-Bahujan groups and anti-caste activists were commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle near Pune. While those injured in the attacks have claimed that the violence was instigated by some Hindutva groups, the Pune Police have arrested several activists and rights lawyers.

The term “urban Naxal” was used by the Pune Police while probing the alleged links between the Elgar Parishad conclave of December 31, 2017, and the caste clashes around Bhima-Koregaon the next day. The police have also claimed that the arrested activists were planning an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Also read: Bhima Koregaon: Amid Demands For Fresh Probe, A Hard Look at the Case’s Discrepancies

While some rights activists were arrested in the case by the Pune city police, their rural counterparts had booked Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide for allegedly inciting violence. Ekbote was granted bail by the Supreme Court, while Bhide was never arrested.

In the past month, the state’s home department officials have met Pune police on several occasions to discuss the investigation into the case.

While the police have claimed that the activists and lawyers arrested in the case have been involved in planning and execution of violence that broke out on January 1, 2018, at Bhima Koregaon, several news reports – including those reported by The Wire – have pointed at the discrepancies in the investigations and possible tampering of the evidence that the police have relied upon.

The newly formed government, especially the NCP leaders, have been vocal in support of the arrested activists and have announced their willingness to take another look at the investigation. NCP leader and state cabinet minister for housing Jitendra Awhad had raised the issue in the winter assembly session and had accused the Pune police of working at the behest of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. NCP chief Sharad Pawar too in a press conference at Pune sought a fresh probe.

According to sources in the state home department, the meeting lasted for a few hours and the Pune police, including chief investigating officer ACP Shivaji Pawar, made a detailed presentation to home minister Anil Deshmukh. “The minister is yet to decide if the case needs reinvestigation or supervision. This decision will be taken soon,” said a senior leader.

(With PTI inputs)