In a decision which could have serious law and order implications, the newly elected Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday has reportedly assured senior NCP leadership that criminal cases filed against the Dalit ‘activists’ in connection with the violence at Bhima-Koregaon will be withdrawn at earliest.
According to a Times of India report, the decision to withdraw cases against these ‘activists’ who had allegedly resorted to violence during the Bhima Koregaon event comes after Maharashtra CM had asked the state home department to immediately withdraw criminal cases filed against the so-called ‘activists’ booked for protesting against the cutting of trees in Aarey Colony and those opposing the Nanar refinery in the Konkan.
“Law-enforcing agencies had initiated criminal proceedings against activists for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence and the Indu Mill agitation. All of them were falsely implicated, so we requested the CM to withdraw the cases immediately, and he acceded to our request,” said NCP MLA Prakash Gajbhiye, who was also present at the meeting.
Two days back, NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad had demanded the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government to drop the charges slapped against Sudhir Dhawale, a prime accused in the Bhima Koregaon case for his involvement in the Elgar Parishad and an alleged ‘Urban Naxal’. NCP leader Dhananjay Munde had also written to Uddhav Thackeray for the same.
On the 200 anniversary of the battle of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1 last year, a large number of people had gathered at the memorial near Pune. While the crowd was dispersing, violence erupted not only in Pune and surrounding areas but across the state. A 28-year-old youth, Rahul Patangale, was killed in the violence. 52 cases were registered and 152 people were arrested for violence and riots in the streets.
The Bhima-Koregaon cases are different from the ones related to the Elgar Parishad rally held the day before the January violence. Cracking down on the Elgar Parishad’s alleged ‘Urban Naxals’ the Maharashtra police and ATS had arrested several alleged Naxal sympathisers and co-conspirators last year.
Apart from the Elgar Parishad cases, the Pune police had registered 58 cases against 152 people for the violence during the Bhima Koregaon event. Subsequently, on February 9, 2018, the state government appointed Justice JN Patel, a former judge of the Bombay high court, to probe all aspects of the violence under the Commission of Inquiry Act.
In connection with the Elgar Parishad case, ten ‘activists’, who are known to be sympathisers of left-wing terror were nabbed by the Pune police. These ‘activists’ are also accused of plotting to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Initially, the five suspected ‘Urban Naxals’ were arrested by the Pune police on 6 June 2018 over charges of organising the Elgaar Parishad held at Pune’s Shaniwarwada on 31 December 2017, which is believed to have instigated the Bhima-Koregaon violence a day later.
They are Delhi based activist Rona Wilson, advocate Surendra Gadling, professor Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut from Nagpur and Mumbai’s Sudhir Dhawale.
The Pune police had filed a 5,000-page charge sheet, which had names of 10 persons of the above ‘Urban Naxals’. Addition to these five, absconding underground Maoists Milind Teltumbde, Prakash alias Ritupam Goswami, Prashant Bose alias Kishan da, Manglu and Deepu have also been named in the charge sheet.
The withdrawal of cases by a newly elected government against the perpetrators involved in riots and vandalism is not new. As soon as Congress came to power in Madhya Pradesh in 2018, the government had withdrawn the Bharat Bandh cases filed in April 2018 against Dalits after alliance partner BSP had threatened to withdraw their support given to Kamal Nath government.
The Kamal Nath government had also decided to withdraw nearly 50,000 similar cases filed in the last 15 years by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during its tenure in Madhya Pradesh.