Koregaon Bhima violence: Month later, panel yet to begin probe

CM announces withdrawal of cases, pushes for Ekbote’s custodial interrogation

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Updated: March 14, 2018 5:15 am
Koregaon Bhima violence Property worth Rs 13 crore was destroyed, says government. (Express File Photo)

Over a month after the Maharashtra government formed an inquiry commission to investigate the Koregaon Bhima violence, senior government sources confirmed that the committee was yet to commence the probe. On February 9, 2017, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced the formation of a two-man committee — headed by former Calcutta High Court Chief Justice J N Patel — under the Commissions of Inquiry Act (1952) to investigate the matter. Maharashtra’s serving Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick is the panel’s second member. But more than a month later, government sources told The Indian Express the panel was yet to be allocated an office space and staff, and commence the probe.

The commission, which has been asked to submit its report within four months, will probe the reasons behind the violence, and those responsible for it. It has also been asked to fix responsibility. The role of the local administration and the police in responding to the violence has to be looked into as well. The violence that had occurred during the bicentennial event to commemorate the Bhima Koregaon battle had killed one person and led to widespread protests across Maharashtra. The police have slapped criminal cases against Samasta Hindu Aghadi leader and former BJP corporator Milind Ekbote and Shiv Pratisthan chief Sambhaji Bhide, among others in connection with the January 1 violence. The commission’s scope of work includes probing whether any group had orchestrated the violence.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, during the proceedings of the Legislative Council, the Opposition upped the ante against the government over the controversy, even alleging that the violence was “orchestrated and state sponsored.” But Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis countered the allegation. “We arrested a total of 1,199 people. The police have lodged 622 cases of rioting, 17 others under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and 350 others of a serious nature,” the CM said, while replying to the discussion in the House.

While claiming that those responsible for the violence won’t be spared, the CM informed the House that about 3,000 people had suffered injuries during the violence and property worth Rs 13 crore was found to have been destroyed. He further informed the House that 22 people are behind bars in the matter.

Meanwhile, Fadnavis on Tuesday announced the withdrawal of most of the cases. He said that the cases of a serious offence and the ones slapped on persons with a criminal past would be retained. “A committee headed by an Additional Director General of Police-rank officer would review the ones of a serious nature. The committee will scrutinise these case and submit its report within three months,” the chief minister informed.

Last month, the Supreme Court had rapped the state administration over the failure to arrest Ekbote. But Fadnavis claimed on Tuesday that the state’s machinery had undertaken an “extensive search and combing operation” to arrest Ekbote, who is also a former BJP corporator. “But despite our efforts, he (Ekbote) managed to evade arrest. We have now requested the Supreme Court to permit his custodial interrogation, while opposing his application for an anticipatory bail.”

But the SC, during a hearing last month, had slammed the state, questioning “what had stopped it from doing its job, and arrest the accused (Ekbote).” The Opposition alleged that Ekbote had openly dared the police to arrest him on television channels. Incidentally no discussion took place in the house over the fate of Bhide.

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