Days after Sharad Pawar expressed displeasure over the Uddhav Thackeray government accepting the Centre’s decision to handover the Elgaar Parishad case to NIA, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) president Prakash Ambedkar on Thursday said the NCP chief should instead demand a probe into Hindutva leader Sambhaji Bhide’s role in the Koregaon Bhima violence.
“The silence of the Maharashtra government over Sambhaji Bhide, who played a crucial role in the riots at Koregaon Bhima, is shocking. Instead of raising a hue and cry over the Elgaar Parishad probe, Sharad Pawar should demand action against Bhide,” Ambedkar told The Indian Express.
Following a complaint filed by Dalit activist Anita Savale, Bhide was booked by Pune Rural Police for allegedly instigating violence in Koregaon Bhima on January 1, 2018. However, Bhide, the chief of Shri Shivpratisthan Hindusthan, was never arrested due to “lack of evidence”.
While maintaining that Elgaar Parishad and Koregaon Bhima violence cases are different, Ambedkar said both should have been probed by the state government.
The matter relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgaar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed, triggered violence near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial in the district the next day. The Pune Police have alleged that the conclave was addressed by Maoists and arrested several activists who attended it. Ambedkar himself had addressed the Elgaar Parishad and later led statewide protests post Koregaon Bhima violence.
“The NIA has taken over Elgaar Parishad probe from the Pune Police citing that Maoists had plotted to kill the Prime Minister. If the matter is so serious, why was it not mentioned in the police chargesheet? Secondly, Pawar is not pressing for action against Milind Ekbote (another Hindutva leader booked in the Koregaon Bhima case) and Sambhaji Bhide…,” Ambedkar said, adding that NCP was trying to win over Dalit and OBC votes in this manner.
Ambedkar said the Elgaar Parishad was convened to bridge the socio-political divide between Marathas, OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in view of the Maratha agitation seeking reservation in jobs and education. It was also held to address the demand of the Marathas to scrap the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
“Yet, it was alleged that the Elgaar Parishad instigated the Koregaon Bhima violence and plotted the assassination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The charges that ‘urban Maoists’ were responsible for the same is ridiculous,” he added.
Ambedkar urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to set up a special investigation team to probe the Bhima Koregaon case. “A commission under a retired judge will be a toothless tiger,” he said. Taking on NCP and Congress over not extending support to the activists who have been arrested, Ambedkar said the two ruling allies should have taken the matter to court.
On the BJP demanding a re-investigation into 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Ambedkar said: “The CM should show guts and accept BJP’s demand. Local connections that helped the Pakistan terrorists have not been unearthered. Also, questions remain on lapses that lead to the deaths of senior Mumbai Police officers like Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines