Bhima-Koregaon case transferred to NIA: Sharad Pawar slams Uddhav Thackeray
That the National Investigative Agency (NIA) has taken over the Bhima-Koregaon case upset Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who attacked Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray over the same. Pawar, 79, said the Centre's decision to interfere in the matter was wrong, and so was the state government's call to let it happen. This is the first time Pawar slammed Thackeray openly.
Before 200th anniversary of Bhima-Koregaon battle, provocative speeches were made
The Bhima-Koregaon case dates back to 2018 when allegedly inflammatory speeches were made at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, that sparked violence the next day. One person lost his life in the episode. Later, Pune Police arrested Left-leaning activists like Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, and Varavara Rao.
Arrests happened in BJP era, Pawar wanted SIT's probe
When the arrests happened, Maharashtra was governed by BJP's Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The saffron party was accused of abusing its power. Months later, when the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was formed in the state, Pawar wrote to Thackeray saying that the case should be investigated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT). Apart from Sena and NCP, Congress is also part of MVA.
More than Centre, Pawar is upset with state government
Much to Pawar's surprise, SIT didn't take over the case, but NIA did. Expressing his dissatisfaction over it, Pawar on Friday said, "It was not right for the Centre to hand over the investigation into the case to the NIA. But it was even more wrong for the state government to support the transfer of the case." He was speaking to reporters in Kolhapur.
He also raised questions at the timing
Pawar is perhaps skeptical that the state and Centre are working together. "The behavior of some in the Maharashtra Police (involved in Bhima-Koregaon investigation) was objectionable. I wanted the role of these officers to be investigated. But ministers in the Maharashtra government met police officers one morning, and the Centre ordered its transfer to the NIA at 3 pm the same day," he pointed out.
Pawar called the turn of events unfair
"This is wrong as per the Constitution because criminal investigations come within the state's jurisdiction. Maintaining law & order is a state subject. It is unfair to encroach upon the rights of the state and Maharashtra's support to the move is more unfair," he added.
Home Minister, who is from NCP, also condemned the decision
A day before Pawar's statements, state home minister Anil Deshmukh, who belongs to NCP, said Thackeray used his "discretionary powers" for the handover. "As Home Minister, my stand was that the Centre should have taken state government into confidence before taking the decision. We were putting up our stand in the court in this direction. CM has the right to overrule my stand," he said.