Mumbai: The fear of getting exposed was behind the central government’s decision to hand over the probe in cases related to Bhima Koregaon violence to the National Investigation Agency, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said on Saturday.
Talking to reporters, Pawar said that speaking against injustice was not Naxalism. "I think the government fears that it may be exposed. So the decision has been taken (to transfer the case to NIA)," he said.
The central government had on Friday night transferred the politically charged cases filed against several intellectuals and social activists accused of instigating violence at Bhima Koregaon, a village near Pune, on January 1, 2018.
Calling the move unconstitutional, the Maharashtra government has said it was not consulted before the decision was made.
“The state has all the right to probe this matter. What was the reason to transfer the case in haste? They were afraid that truth will come out,” Pawar said, adding that it was unfair that it is unfair to label people Maoists and put them in jail only because they speak against injustice.
Hours before the cases were taken away from the Pune police, Pawar had on Saturday written to CM Uddhav Thackeray seeking constitution of an SIT to probe the cases and had also said officers involved in “framing the people in the case” need to be suspended.
Pawar had last month, too, demanded that an SIT be set up under a retired judge to probe the action taken by Pune police against activists in the case.
Senior minister and the NCP's state unit chief Jayant Patil also attacked the Centre, saying it had "different motives" while bringing in the NIA to probe the matter.
Patil said Pawar had demanded the formation of a SIT to probe the case. “But the Union government, having different motives, transferred the case to NIA," Patil alleged.
According to Pune police, the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017, was supported by Maoists and inflammatory speeches made at the event led to the caste violence at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in the district the next day.
The Pune Police had arrested nine activists – 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.
The Centre transferred the probe to NIA on Friday, a day after Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh met senior police officials in Mumbai to review the violence case.