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'What is the Modi government afraid of?'

February 03, 2020 16:12 IST

'By transferring the case to the NIA without the Maharashtra government's consent clearly indicates they want to play mischief.'

IMAGE: A Dalit protest. Photograph: PTI Photo

Retired Bombay high court judge Justice B G Kolse Patil -- who states that he and retired Supreme Court Justice P B Sawant organised and funded the Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017 at Bhima-Korgegaon near Pune -- says the Union government's "abrupt" decision to hand over the case to the National Investigation Agency, that reports to the Union home minister, "under the pretext that the NIA wants to further investigate the case doesn't make any sense."

Dalits, from all over Maharashtra, congregate at Bhima-Koregaon, a small village in Pune district every year to celebrate the victory of the British India Army, comprising mostly of Dalits, over the Peshwa in the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 1818.

The day after Dalits had gathered to commemorate the bicentennial of the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon, violence broke out on January 1, 2018, that led to death of one person.

The Pune police, which investigated the case, later arrested activists Sudhir Dhawale, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira, alleging they were part of a Maoist conspiracy to foment trouble at Bhima-Koregaon.

The Pune police later claimed these activists had plotted to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi.

Ten days ago, the Union government directed the National Investigation Agency to take over the probe -- launched when the Bharatiya Janata Party's Devendra Fadnavis was Maharashtra chief minister -- from the Pune police.

This was, Justice Kolse Patil states, in response to the Maharashtra government's statement that it planned to review the case and appoint a special investigation team to examine the evidence produced by the Pune police.

"The NIA is appointed only with a view to suppress the truth," Justice Kolse Patil tells's Prasanna D Zore.


What is your objection to the NIA taking over the Bhima-Koregaon violence cases?

The BJP government was in power in Maharashtra when the Pune police investigated the matter. The investigation is complete, their chargesheet is ready.

Two accused -- Sambhaji Bhide and (Milind) Ekbote -- had taken press conferences and appealed to people (at Bhima-Koregaon) not to even give water Dalits who were expected to gather there on December 31, 2017..

While there is ample evidence against these two, the evidence against intellectuals arrested and against whom various cases have been filed are 100 per cent fabricated.

Cases were filed against Justice P B Sawant with an ulterior motive because he enquired into the Gujarat riots (of 2002) along with Justice (V R) Krishna Iyer.

They (Justices Iyer and Sawant) had recommended that (Narendra Damodardas) Modi (then Gujarat chief minister) and other BJP and VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) leaders should be prosecuted for genocide and should not be given any Constitutional post.

Thereafter, Modi was denied a visa by the whole world.

The Elgar Parishad was organised by myself and Justice Sawant to educate the so-called secular youth of the country about how systematically our natural resources are being sold out (by the Modi government), how our banks are being sold out, how our public institutions are being compromised and how all democratic institutions are being destroyed.

I wanted to give this message to the people.

In 1818, they fought against the Peshwa, and we asked the people to fight this neo-Peshwa (the Modi government) which is destroying India.

Now even the ATS (Maharashtra's anti-terrorist squad) chief has said the Elgar Parishad has nothing to do with Bhima-Koregaon (violence).

What are your concerns if the NIA takes over the investigation?

What is the point in the NIA taking over the case when they (the BJP government then headed by Devendra Fadnavis) have themselves investigated the case?

If investigations have been completed, chargesheets have been filed, then what are they (the NIA) going to do by taking the case to Delhi?

The Maharashtra government was mulling appointing a special investigation team. What is the purpose of such a SIT when as you have said the investigations have been completed and chargesheets filed?

The entire purpose of this SIT would have been to go through the record prepared by the previous investigation agency (the Pune police under the Fadnavis government).

After going through the available evidence and record, they (this SIT) may have come to a different conclusion. However, this SIT's conclusion wouldn't affect the course of judgment.

Even if this SIT investigation comes to a conclusion that the evidence gathered by the Pune police is concocted, the case is false, even then the judgment in this case which is already in court will not be affected.

Taking this case away from the Maharashtra government under the pretext that the NIA wants to further investigate the case doesn't make any sense.

Can't the Maharashtra government still have its SIT probe the same case simultaneously even as the NIA continues with its investigation?

That is what I am suggesting.

This can't happen because the NIA is appointed only with a view to suppress the truth and save the fabricated evidence gathered against us.

IMAGE: Milind Ekbote, left, and Sambhaji Bhide have come under fire for the violence in Maharashtra after the bicentenary celebration of the Battle of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018. Photographs: PTI Photo

Why can't the Maharashtra government conduct its own investigation?

Once those papers (the evidence) are taken to Delhi to a different court, then the Maharashtra government ceases to be the investigating agency in this matter.

What I have suggested is that the Maharashtra government conduct investigations against Ekbote and Bhide independently.

Are you planning any legal recourse against the Centre directing the NIA to take over the case?

The (Maharashtra) government is thinking of going to court. If the government doesn't do it, then we will (legally) challenge it.

If they have already done the investigation, they are taking the case to Delhi for what, without taking the state government into confidence?

We are watching the state government's move. If they go to court, there is no need for us to go to court.

We also plan to prosecute the concerned police officers for atrocities against the Dalits under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. They have fabricated evidence against the accused Dalits.

Is the Union government violating any law by handing over the case to the NIA?

It would have been proper if they had taken the state government's consent and then handed over the case to the NIA.

The case was handed over to the NIA only after the state government made a statement that it is inquiring into the Elgar Parishad investigation, the Union government abruptly decided to hand over the case to the NIA.

Had they (the Union government) transferred the case to the NIA before the state government made a statement to inquire into the earlier investigation, then we wouldn't have objected to it.

That they are doing it now clearly indicates they want to play mischief.

What is the central government afraid of?

What is the central government afraid of?

That their people (Ekbote and Bhide)'s role in the violence will come to light.

The case against me and Justice Sawant is 100 per cent fabricated.

Do you believe the evidence gathered by the Pune police, which investigated the Bhima-Koregaon violence, was fabricated?

They (the Pune police) said they had recorded Justice Sawant's statement and included that in their chargesheet when they actually didn't do so.

When he objected, they apologised to him and recorded his statement.