Pune: A former Bombay high court judge, who was one of the organisers of the Elgar Parishad conclave, an event that allegedly triggered caste violence in Koregaon-Bhima, on Monday said an National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe was not needed in the matter and warned of legal action against the Centre’s move.
Justice B.G. Kolse Patil said he and fellow organisers of the conclave, held on December 31st, 2017, were mulling challenging in the Supreme Court or the high court, the Union government’s move to hand over the probe into the Koregaon- Bhima violence to the NIA.
The case, in which activists have been arrested, pertains to caste violence that took place near the Koregaon- Bhima war memorial in Pune district on January 1st, 2018, following alleged provocative speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave.
The case was transferred by the Union government from the Maharashtra police to the NIA, a central agency that handles terror-related matters, on Friday, a move criticised by the three-party ruling coalition in the state.
Justice Kolse Patil said the Centre transferred the case to the NIA as it did not want the “wrong” investigation carried out by the police under the previous (BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis) government to be “exposed”.
“The investigation into the Elgar Parishad case was carried out by the earlier government which was BJP-led. The investigation has been completed. The charge-sheet was filed and now they (the BJP-led government at the Centre) are taking the case to the NIA,” he said at a press conference.
“Since the probe in the case was fabricated and based on flimsy grounds, they took the case to the NIA as they did not want wrongdoings during the investigation to be exposed after the (Uddhav Thackeray-led) state government planned to appoint a SIT,” Justice Kolse Patil said.
The ex-judge questioned that if the probe was “genuine” what was the need to hand it over to the central agency.
He said names of Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide had cropped up during the initial probe into the case, but it took a sudden turn after someone called Tushar Damgude filed a case at the Vishrambaug police station, alleging provocative speeches were given at the conclave.
The Pune police have claimed these speeches led to the violence at Koregaon Bhima on January 1st, 2018. The police have also claimed the conclave was organised by people having Maoist links.
Ekbote, booked for instigating and orchestrating the violence, was arrested on March 14, 2018 and granted bail a month later. Bhide, a former RSS activist who heads the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, was named in the FIR but never arrested.
“The entire case of Elgar Parishad is an afterthought as there was no link between Elgar Parishad and the violence,” the ex-judge claimed and refuted allegations of a link between the conclave and proscribed Maoist outfits.
During the probe into the violence, police arrested activists Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links.
The former HC judge claimed he and other (Elgar Parishad) organisers did not even “personally” know the persons arrested (by the Pune police) in connection with the case.
He alleged the police had foisted cases on Dalits using “fabricated evidence”, and said “we are mulling if (SC/ ST) Atrocities Act cases can be slapped against the police officers” associated with the probe.
Justice Kolse Patil said the organisers would ask the Maharashtra government to thoroughly probe the Koregaon-Bhima violence case, registered at the Shikrapur police station here.