NCP leader Sharad Pawar has been directed by the independent enquiry commission on the Bhima-Koregaon 2018 violence to appear before it for recording a statement. The development comes after the senior NCP leader was accused of giving disturbing statements to the media in view of the violence.
The Enquiry Commission now seeks Pawar’s presence to record a statement in connection with the January 2018 violence on May 5 and 6. Pawar had earlier been summoned on February 23 and 24 for which demanded an extension. This is the third time, the fact-finding committee has asked Pawar his presence to record his statement since 2020 wherein he could not appear due to Coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
The NCP chief has sought a new date as he wanted to submit a fresh affidavit regarding the case. Pawar had also filed an affidavit previously before the commission on October 8, 2018, the year in which the violence took place. Pawar had alleged that the rioting took place when some anti-social elements instigated people for their own political mileage. Soon after the violence broke out in 2020, Vivek Vichar Manch, a Hindu rights group filed an application before the commission to seek Pawar’s interrogation over his involvement in sparking caste-based violence in Maharashtra.
Allegations against Pawar
In February 2018, Sagar Shinde, a member of the Vivek Vichar Manch filed an application after alleging that the NCP chief had made disturbing statements in his press conference on February 18 in Pune. Shinde alleges that during the press conference Pawar wrongfully attributed the reason behind the violence to some ‘right-wing’ activists. Pawar alleged that right-wing activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide had created a “different” atmosphere in Koregaon-Bhima, that led to the skirmishes during the gathering.
Shinde said in the plea, “In the press conference, Pawar alleged that the role of Pune city police commissioner is doubtful and must be investigated. These statements are within the purview of the terms of reference of this commission and therefore, they are relevant.”
What is the Bhima-Koregoan case?
Violence broke out on January 1, 2018, between different caste groups near the Bhima-Koregoan War memorial near Pune when Dalit activists planned to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the 1818 battle of Koregaon-Bhima. One person had died and many others including 10 policemen were injured in the incident. The investigation by Pune Police concluded that it was the provocative speeches at the ‘Elgar Parishad‘ held at Shaniwarwada on December 31, 2017, that triggered the violence. The Pune Police has also ascertained the role of Maoist groups in organising the Elgar Parishad conclave.
The following day, i.e on January 1, 2018, large scale violence broke out at Bhima Koregaon near Pune, where lakhs of Dalits had gathered to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, won by the British Army against the Peshwas in 1818. The investigation was transferred to the National Investigation Agency in January 2020.