State begins review of Elgar Parishad cases; cops told to investigate snooping allegationsUpdated: Jan 24, 2020 00:01 IST
A month after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar demanded a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the arrests of writers and activists involved in Elgar Parishad, connecting them to the Bhima-Koregaon violence in Pune on January 1, 2018, the state government on Thursday started reviewing the cases filed by the Pune Police.
Besides two charge sheets filed by the police, the government has reportedly asked the Pune Police to reveal the source of the letter allegedly found with arrested activist Rona Wilson, which the police used as key evidence against the activists.
The government has also begun the probe into the alleged tapping and snooping of Opposition leaders during the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections last year.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and home minister Anil Deshmukh held the first review meeting to take stock of the investigation. The meeting held in the Mantralaya on Thursday was attended by additional chief secretary Sanjay Kumar, director-general of police Subodh Jaiswal, state intelligence commissioner Rashmi Shukla, ACP Shivaji Pawar and special inspector general Ravindra Kadam. Pawar was the investigating officer, while Kadam was the joint commissioner in Pune when the arrests took place.
Ajit Pawar and Deshmukh reportedly questioned police officers about the evidence and corroborative documents they had collected while booking the activists, terming them “urban naxals”.
The officers were also asked to justify the charges levelled against the accused in the charge sheets. The government has also told the officers to explain the source of the Wilson letter allegedly speaking of “ending Modi-raj”.
“The review meeting held today was not conclusive. We have planned to meet again in the next few days. The police have submitted documents and proofs, including discs collected in the case. We met various delegations representing the social activists and heard them. Most of them told us that the previous government in the state acted against the people who were against their ideology or spoke against them. We are checking if there is any substance in it and the way the investigation is going on,” said Deshmukh.
He refused to speak about the letter by Wilson and said that the government’s stance on the entire episode will be clarified after the review was completed. He said that the decision on the SIT to probe the arrests would be taken if they felt the need.
According to an official from the home department, the home minister has told them that if the Pune Police failed to substantiate action in the cases, the government will announce a SIT to probe the role of police officers.
Sharad Pawar on December 21 last year had alleged that the action against the activists was vengeful and wrong and needs to be probed by a SIT of retired or serving judges. He had also alleged that a few senior officials from the Pune Police commissionerate had “misused their power” and needed to be investigated.
The Pune Police had in July and August 2018 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 the Elgar Parishad conclave, held on December 31, 2017. The police alleged that the conclave was supported by Maoists and inflammatory speeches made at the event had led to the violence at the Bhima-Koregaon war memorial in the district the next day.
Meanwhile, Deshmukh has asked the state police to conduct an investigation to find out whether any government officials were involved in snooping, whether government machinery was used for the same and if an Israeli software was used to snoop on the phones of political leaders. Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh had said last week that a few officials in the Maharashtra government had a deal with an Israel firm for phone tapping. Singh had also demanded a probe by Thackeray government into the tapping and snooping.
“Digvijayji had said that the phones of Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena leaders were tapped by the government during elections and even during the formation of the three-party government. Phone calls of Sharad Pawarsaheb and Sanjay Rautji too were being tapped. Using government machinery for such activities is uncalled for. We have begun the investigation and expect to the report soon,” he said