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This article was first published 1 year ago  » News » The Strange Deposition Of Shivaji Pawar

The Strange Deposition Of Shivaji Pawar

January 24, 2023 14:47 IST
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Shivaji Pawar made a startling revelation: Though the subject matter of his investigation was the January 1 violence, he had not examined any of the witnesses to that violence.
Jyoti Punwani reports.

IMAGE: Dalits arrive at the Bhima Koregaon Victory Pillar at the Bhima Koregaon village near Pune. Photograph: PTI Photo

"I am not aware of the complaint filed by Mrs Anita Sawale."

This was the statement of Assistant Commissioner of Police Shivaji Pawar, the officer in charge of the Elgar Parishad case in which 16 intellectuals stand charged under UAPA, with most of them having spent almost five years behind bars.

One of them, 84-year-old Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy, died in custody in 2021.

Pawar was being cross-examined by Senior Advocate B A Desai, representing Congressman Sanjay Lakhe Patil. It was on Desai's application that Pawar was asked to file an affidavit before the two-member Bhima Koregaon Commission of Inquiry into the violence that took place on January 1, 2018.

Pawar's statement was strange indeed, as Anita Sawale's complaint that he was asked about related to the violence on January 1. The case that Pawar investigated also related to the same violence. Yet, the police officer maintained that he was not aware of the first complaint that came to be filed about the violence.


Dalit activist Anita Sawale had visited Bhima Koregaon like lakhs of other Dalits, to pay homage at the site of the battle of Bhima Koregaon on its 200th anniversary. While this is an annual ritual, for the first time on January 1, 2018, Dalits were attacked by mobs holding saffron flags. The attacks led to riots with one Maratha youth being killed.

In her complaint, Sawale named Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote as responsible for having instigated the violence. She filed her complaint on January 2, 2018, the day after the violence. Ekbote was arrested in March after the Supreme Court denied him anticipatory bail. He got bail in a month. Bhide was given a clean chit by then Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and never arrested.

On January 7, 2018, five days after Sawale's complaint, Tushar Damgude, a Pune businessman and a self-confessed believer in Hindutva, filed a complaint linking the January 1 violence to a rally held a day earlier, on December 31, 2017.

The Elgar Parishad was organised in Pune by two retired judges with the help of a host of Dalit and progressive organisations. Speakers there included Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid, Rohit Vemula's mother, Sudhir Dhawale, and Prakash Ambedkar.

Damgude's complaint said the speeches made at this rally furthered a 'Maoist' agenda, that the Elgar Parishad was organised by those with Maoist links, and that these speeches instigated the violence at Bhima Koregaon that took place the next day.

Damgude's complaint forms the basis of the entire Elgar Parishad case.


Pawar made another startling revelation: Though the subject matter of his investigation was the January 1 violence, he had not examined any of the witnesses to that violence, including Anita Sawale.

"I have examined the witnesses necessary for the investigation of CR No. 04/2018 registered at Vishrambaug police station," he stated repeatedly. (CR No. 04/2018 was the case registered on Damgude's complaint.) These may have also been witnesses to the January 1 violence, he added.

He "might have asked" these witnesses about the January 1 violence, he said.

IMAGE: A protest in Mumbai, March 26, 2018, to demand action against those who instigated the violence following the Elgar Parishad in Pune on January 1, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo


Pawar was part of the Pune police when he took over the Elgar Parishad case. He stayed with the case till the National Investigation Agency took charge in February 2020 on orders from the Centre, after the Bharatiya Janata Party lost power in Maharashtra. Raids on the homes of activists across India were conducted under his charge and 10 of them were arrested through the year.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court declined to set up an SIT into the Bhima Koregaon violence and the arrests of the intellectuals, as urged by eminent historian Romila Thapar and four others. However, in his minority judgment, Justice D Y Chandrachud wrote: 'Circumstances have been drawn to our notice to cast a cloud on whether the Maharashtra police has in the present case acted as fair and impartial investigating agency.

In August 2020, Pawar was given the Home Minister's medal for Excellence in Investigation.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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