Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has assured a delegation of NCP leaders comprising state cabinet members Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal and legislators Prakash Gajbhiye and Dhananjay Munde that criminal cases filed against Dalit activists in connection with the violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 2 and 3, 2018, would be withdrawn as early as possible.
This is a welcome step. Nine activists held in the Elgar Parishad case – Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Rona Wilson, Vernon Gonsalves, Mahesh Raut, Surendra Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Shoma Sen and P Varavara Rao – have been accused of having links with the banned CPI (Maoist), which, Pune Police claim, supported and funded the Elgar Parishad meeting in Pune on December 31, 2017.
However, this is not enough. The police has claimed that those arrested are top urban Maoist operatives though many lawyers and activists have pointed out the flimsy evidences presented by the police. These activists have been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other sections of IPC by the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in Maharashtra.
A thorough probe needs to be ordered at the highest level to find out who pressured the police to lodge these cases on charges which many believe were false, the veracity of the evidence presented, the possibility of cooking up of evidence and if the courts were pressured not to grant bail to the well-known rights activists in spite of insufficient evidence being presented. Earlier, on November 28, Thackeray had announced immediate withdrawal of criminal cases filed against activists booked for protesting the cutting of trees in Aarey Colony in Mumbai. That is also an extremely welcome step.
Apart from the probe into the police action with regard to the Bhima-Koregaon case, the new Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance government in the state must also order a thorough investigation into the mysterious death of CBI Special Court Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya just 15 days before he was to deliver the verdict in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which BJP national president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah was the prime accused.
Loya’s family had claimed foul play and claimed that the Judge was under pressure to deliver a judgment favourable to Amit Shah. The fact that the next CBI Special Court Judge promptly dismissed all charges against Shah in the very next hearing certainly also does not inspire confidence in the judgment.
Since the Supreme Court had dismissed two petitions, one a review one, asking for investigations into Judge Loya’s death, the onus falls on the executive to dig out the truth about what transpired in Nagpur on November 30 and December 1, 2014. People’s faith in the judiciary has been shaken in the last few years. Only a proper probe can restore the same.