NIA moves Pune court for transfer of Elgaar Parishad case

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed an application before a special court in Pune seeking transfer of the Elgaar Parishad case records to the special NIA court in Mumbai.

According to sources, the agency filed the criminal miscellaneous application before Additional Sessions Judge (special) S.R. Navandar late on Wednesday.

The Pune court has posted the hearing on the matter for February 3.

Earlier this week, a three-member team from the NIA had met personnel of the Pune Police involved in the Elgaar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case and held a review meeting.

The Pune Police reportedly told the NIA team that as documents pertaining to the case were being presented as evidence in court, they would be handed over to the agency after an order from the Maharashtra Director General of Police.

Pune Police had earlier denied that they did not provide the NIA team access to the Elgaar Parishad case documents, saying they would be given to the agency once due procedures were completed.

The Centre had announced the transfer of the probe into the Elgaar Parishad case, in which nine activists and intellectuals have been arrested so far for alleged Maoist links, from the Pune Police to the NIA prompting a tussle over control of the case with the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the State.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Thursday that his department was in the process of receiving the Centre’s communication regarding transfer of the case and the government would take a call on the matter in the next couple of days.

“The letter [from the Centre] is with the Law and Judiciary Department. It will come to the Home department by today evening. We will seek legal opinion on how to proceed and then consult with the Chief Minister [Uddhav Thackeray],” Mr. Deshmukh said.

Calling entire the Elgaar Parishad probe conducted by the Pune police as “phoney”, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar said it was strange that the NIA now had to take recourse to courts in order to secure documents pertaining to the case.

Among those arrested in the case are poet-activist P. Varavara Rao, noted trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, activists Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof. Shoma Sen and writer-publisher Sudhir Dhawale – all of whom are lodged in Pune’s Yerwada prison.

The Pune City police’s case rests on an FIR registered at the city’s Vishrambaug police station (in January 2018) in connection with the Elgaar Parishad held at Pune’s Shaniwarwada Fort on December 31, 2017 as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the 1818 battle of Koregaon-Bhima.

The FIR, based on a complaint by one Tushar Damgude in the immediate aftermath of the Bhima-Koregaon clashes of January 1, was initially lodged against six participants, including Mr. Dhawale. Those named in the FIR were members of the Kabir Kala Manch – a radical Dalit cultural troupe.

The complainant had accused the KKM activists of making a number of “inflammatory” speeches and delivering “socially divisive” presentations during the course of the troupe’s performance and recitals at the Elgaar Parishad, which lasted nearly eight hours and witnessed the participation of thousands of persons from more than 250 progressive social outfits including several left-leaning and Ambedkarite groups across the State.

The raids and subsequent arrests of these prominent activists and academics were based on this FIR, with the Pune Police claiming to have extended the scope of investigations to unearth their alleged “Maoist links”.


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