Terming the arrest of activists in the Elgar Parishad case “wrong” and “vengeful”, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday said he would ask for a Special Investigation Team to probe the action taken by the Pune Police. The NCP is an alliance partner in the coalition government in Maharashtra.
“We will ask the Chief Minister for an SIT… to probe the police action. Facts should be verified,” he said, adding that the SIT can be headed by a senior serving or retired officer or a sitting or retired judge.
Agreeing that there were “very strong opinions expressed in the speeches” at the Elgar, Pawar said, “In a democracy, people take such positions. I have seen this in the past, during the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. But people were not booked for treason then… This entire investigation needs to be looked into. It appears that police misused their powers and we can’t be mute spectators to this… The conduct of the Pune Police Commissioner and some of his aides is highly objectionable. The action of the Pune Police is wrong and vengeful.” Pawar also called for the suspension of police officers involved in the arrests.
On January 1 last year, violence erupted at an event in Pune to mark 100 years of the Bhima-Koregaon battle that left one dead and several injured, including 10 policemen.
Alleging that speeches made by people at the Elgar Parishad, an event organised at Pune’s Shaniwar Wada on December 31, 2017, had instigated the violence in Koregaon Bhima a day later, police filed an FIR against 23 people and arrested nine of them — Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao. The chargesheet further alleged that a letter recovered from one of the arrested accused had revealed an “assassination conspiracy” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Police had earlier filed 58 cases against 162 people during a state-wide shutdown in January that followed the Bhima-Koregaon clashes.
On Saturday, Pawar said it was improper to make arrests on the basis of what was said at the Elgar Parishad.
In February 2019, months before Lok Sabha polls, Pawar had expressed similar views and said that if he were in power, he would have suspended the Pune Police Commissioner for the arrests.
Talking about the NRC and CAA, Pawar said his party had opposed CAA and also voted against it when it was brought to Parliament. Accusing the Centre of misusing its power, Pawar said, “It’s possible that CAA and NRC will affect the social and religious harmony in the country. Also, it appears this is an attempt to divert attention from more serious questions that face the country at the moment,” said Pawar.