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Maharashtra Home Minister Seeks Status Report in Bhima Koregaon Case

Nine rights activists have been in jail since June 2018. Several NCP leaders including the party chief Sharad Pawar had sought a fresh probe in the case.

Mumbai: A month after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar claimed that the Pune police had wrongly targeted activists and arrested them under false charges for being “Urban Naxals”, Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh has sought a detailed report on the Bhima Koregaon case investigation.

On January 8, speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Deshmukh said, “I have sought a detailed report on the status of the Koregaon Bhima violence; its investigation and aftermath.”

Deshmukh said in the earlier BJP government led by Devendra Fadnavis, anyone who spoke against the administration was being termed as an ‘Urban Naxal’.

“I have sought a detailed report with proofs and the current case status,” he said. Pawar too has sought for a fresh probe and setting up of a special investigation team to relook into the accusations.

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

The issue gained momentum after senior NCP leader and housing minister Jitendra Awhad had raised the issue in the winter assembly session and accused Pune police of tampering with evidence and wrongly confining nine human rights activists and lawyers in the prison for over a year and half.

Deshmukh on January 8 reiterated the claims made by his party leaders and said, “Whoever disagreed with their views were termed as ‘Urban Naxals’ and this is wrong. The previous government had set an example in this regard.”

Clockwise from top left: Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Vernon Gonsalves.

Those arrested include Sudhir Dhawale, a writer and Mumbai-based Dalit rights activist, Surendra Gadling, a UAPA expert and lawyer from Nagpur, Mahesh Raut, a young activist on displacement issues from Gadchiroli, Shoma Sen, a university professor and head of the English literature department at Nagpur University, Rona Wilson, a Delhi-based prisoners’ rights activist, advocate Arun Ferreira, advocate Sudha Bharadwaj, writer Varavara Rao and Vernon Gonsalves.

While the first five were held on June 6, others’ arrests followed.

The Pune police while probing into the violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon on January 1 had come up with the term “Urban Naxal”. Several Dalit rights activists and human rights lawyers were accused of inciting violence. This, even when those injured had accused right-wing leaders like Manohar alias Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote for the violence.

Deshmukh said, “I will be holding a meeting with senior police officials and other government pleaders regarding the Koregaon-Bhima case. I have asked for details of the case, judgments given by the courts and the hearings done by the government-appointed committee in the case,” he said.

He also said that if fresh demands are made to look into Judge B.H. Loya’s mysterious death, that case could be reopened too.

Judge Loya, who was presiding over the CBI court in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case was found dead under mysterious circumstances at one Ravi Bhavan VIP guest house in Nagpur on December 1, 2014. Immediate members of Loya’s family had raised suspicion over his sudden death but the state government had rubbished their claim.