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After Standoff With Centre, Maharashtra Hands Over Elgar Parishad Case To NIA

The Pune Police said inflammatory speeches at Elgar Parishad led to the violence

Mumbai:

After days of standoff with the centre, the Maharashtra government has handed over the Elgar Parishad case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). “We (Maharashtra police) were enquiring into the Koregaon-Bhima case. Once the centre had transferred the case to the NIA, we had not handed over the papers. Hence, we went to the court opposing this. It is the right of the Chief Minister to overrule our decision, which has probably been done,” state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told reporters in Mumbai on Thursday. The Home Minister’s comment indicated his opposition to the transfer of the case was overruled by the Chief Minister.

Earlier, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar had also hinted that the centre legally had the powers to transfer the case to the NIA, even though he had written to the Maharashtra government asking for a Special Investigation Team to look into the case which has generated controversy with the arrest of several activists.

The centre’s sudden decision to hand over the probe to the NIA, according to the Maharashtra Congress, substantiated the “conspiracy” of the BJP. The NCP alleged that the centre’s move was aimed at covering up the wrongdoings of the previous BJP-led government in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray criticised the centre’s decision to transfer the probe into the 2018 Koregaon-Bhima violence case to the NIA without taking the state government into confidence.

Referring to the case, Mr Thackeray said the centre has a right to step into the probe, but it should have taken the state government into confidence before handing over the investigation to the NIA. “I was surprised by the centre’s decision. Doesn’t the centre trust the state’s investigating agencies? Due to such incidents, there is a problem in centre-state relations,” Mr Thackeray said.

After demands for a thorough probe, the Maharashtra government set up a judicial commission to inquire into the violence that took place during the 200th commemoration of the battle of Koregaon-Bhima in 2018. Dalit organisations had alleged that rightwing leaders like Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote had instigated the crowd to attack the people gathered at Koregaon-Bhima.

The Pune Police, after initially pursuing the case along those lines, later said inflammatory speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave a day earlier led to the violence.

The Pune Police then arrested nine activists, including Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao in connection with Elgar Parishad case and filed a chargesheet as well.

In the chargesheet against 19 accused, the Pune Police said documents recovered during searches show a “conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Modi, overthrow the government and wage war against India”.