Days after the Centre wrested control of the politically sensitive Bhima Koregaon-Elgar Parishad case and entrusted it to the National Investigation Agency, a three-member NIA team descended in Pune on Monday.
However, sources in the Pune police said that while the visiting NIA team was shown the case papers, it was told to 'follow due procedure' and route any requests for taking custody them into custody through the Maharashtra DGP.
“A three-member NIA team is in Pune and they met the Pune CP. It was communicated to them that any request for taking custody of papers will have to be routed through official channels. This means they will have to approach the state DGP.
In the absence of any such written orders, the Pune police cannot do the needful, as this could lead to questions in the court at a later stage,” a source in the know of the developments told FPJ.
A top official said the NIA team, led by a Superintendent of Police-rank officer, met senior police officials, including the investigation officer, and handed them a letter, informing that the case has been entrusted to the central agency and they were taking over.
The NIA team also asked for a review of the case from officials concerned. Another official associated with the probe said they have already informed the DGP office in Mumbai about the developments.
The case, in which human rights activists have been arrested, pertains to caste violence that took place near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial in Pune district on January 1, 2018, following alleged provocative speeches at the Elgar Parishad conclave held the previous day.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had on Friday night condemned the Centre's decision to transfer the case to the NIA without consent of the state government. The NCP minister had termed the move as unconstitutional. The opposition BJP, however, welcomed the move.
The advocates of Dalit petitioners in the Bhima Koregaon case have described the move as a clear case of the Centre’s interference in the functioning of the state government. ‘‘It is an attempt to hide the truth in this case, said Kiran Channe, an advocate who is representing the Dalit community before the commission set up to investigate the matter.
“The commission headed by retired Justice JN Patel and former Chief Secretary Sumit Mallick is investigating the violence that occurred on January1, 2018, at Bhima Koregaon and Wadhu. The commission is looking into various aspects of the attack on Dalits and the organisation and people responsible for this,” Channe told Free Press Journal.
“The NIA investigation announcement is showing disrespect to state-level investigative agencies. But this investigation will be limited to Elgar conclave which the government feels was responsible for the violence in Bhima Koregaon. The state has labelled the activists urban Naxals and they want to continue with this tag. Therefore, the investigation was awarded to the NIA,” he said. During the probe into the violence, the police had arrested human rights activists and intellectuals Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao for alleged Maoist links. They were booked under relevant sections of the IPC and also UAPA, an anti-terror law.