Expressing surprise at the comments of NCP chief Sharad Pawar on the arrests of activists in the Elgaar Parishad case, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said many of these activists had been arrested and charged for similar offences when the Congress-NCP government was in power in the state and the Centre.
Pawar, speaking in Pune a couple of days ago, had called these arrests “wrong” and “vengeful”. He had said he would ask Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who heads the Shiv-Sena-NCP-Congress government, to form a special investigation team to probe the police action in the case. He had said the arrests were an attempt to curb freedom of speech in a democracy.
“I am very surprised at what Sharad Pawar has said. Many of those arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case had been arrested earlier as well for their links with the banned CPI-Maoist when the Congress-NCP was in power in the state, and the home minister was from NCP,” Fadnavis said, while addressing a press conference in Pune.
“A list submitted in the Lok Sabha in February 2014 by Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh in the Manmohan Singh government, of which Sharad Pawar was also a part, had identified Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) and Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) as active front organisations of CPI-Maoist,” said Fadnavis.
Some of the activists arrested in the Elgaar Parishad case have links with KKM and IAPL. A total of nine activists and lawyers have been under arrest since last year for their alleged links to the CPI-Maoist.
The Pune police had been acting on a complaint that claimed the involvement of CPI-Maoist in the organisation of Elgaar Parishad, an evening event in Pune on December 31, 2017, a day ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. Police claim that some of the speeches made at Elgaar Parishad had incited violence witnessed on the anniversary, in which one person was killed and several others were injured.
The probe into Elgaar Parishad later widened into an investigation into the larger network of Maoist organisations. Recently, the Pune city police filed “draft charges” against 19 accused the case. Fadnavis said the activists were not arrested for possessing Maoist literature or for performing revolutionary plays and poetry, but for their alleged association with a banned terrorist organisation.
“Koregaon Bhima was just one incident. Police have evidence of their alleged involvement in several other activities of CPI-Maoist,” he claimed.
“When action was taken against them during Congress-NCP rule, it was right. And when similar action has been taken by our government, it becomes wrong. How?” he asked.
Fadnavis said even the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of the police when top lawyers of the Congress had argued in favour of the activists.
“The Supreme Court had ruled with 2:1 majority in favour of police action, following which the arrests were made. But now the minority judgment is conveniently quoted to make allegations against the police. A tall political figure like Sharad Pawar should not do this… the morale of the police will go down,” he said.
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