MUMBAI: The Koregaon-Bhima Inquiry Commission has asked NCP chief Sharad Pawar to appear before it on February 23 and 24 to record evidence in connection with the January 2018 violence at a war memorial in Pune district of Maharashtra.
The panel had earlier summoned Pawar in 2020 but he couldn't appear before it due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Apart from Sharad Pawar, the commission will also record the evidence of the-then Pune (Rural) SP Mohammed Suvez Haq, then Addl SP of Pune (Rural) Sandip Pakhale and the then Additional Commissioner (Pune) Ravindra Sengaonkar, between February 21 and February 25, the judicial commission's advocate Ashish Satpute said on Wednesday.
The two-member probe commission of retired chief justice of the Calcutta High Court JN Patel and former Maharashtra chief secretary Sumit Mullick is conducting a probe into the matter. According to the Pune police, violence had broken out on January 1, 2018, between caste groups near the war memorial during the bicentennial anniversary of the 1818 battle of Koregaon Bhima.
Dalit organisations commemorate the victory of the East India Company over the Peshwas of Pune in the battle because the British forces, according to some historical accounts, mainly included soldiers from the oppressed Mahar community.
But some right-wing organisations had opposed the celebration, leading to the violence in 2018. One person had died and several others, including 10 police personnel, were injured in the incident. The Pune Police had alleged that "provocative" speeches at the 'Elgar Parishad conclave', held on December 31, 2017, in Pune, triggered the violence around Koregaon Bhima.
According to the police, the Elgar Parishad conclave organisers had links with Maoists. The NCP chief had filed an affidavit before the commission on October 8, 2018.
In February 2020, social group Vivek Vichar Manch member Sagar Shinde filed an application before the commission, seeking the summoning of Sharad Pawar in view of certain statements made by him in the media about the 2018 caste violence.
In his plea, Shinde cited a press conference of Pawar. As per the application of Shinde, at the press-meet Pawar alleged that right-wing activists Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide had created a "different" atmosphere in Koregaon Bhima and its vicinity.
"In the same press conference, Pawar also alleged that the role of Pune city police commissioner is doubtful and must be investigated. These statements are within the purview of the terms of reference of this commission and therefore, they are relevant," Shinde had said in the plea.
The applicant had also said he had reasons to believe Pawar has relevant and additional information, apart from what he has already shared in his earlier affidavit filed before the panel regarding the violence and other related matters.
In his affidavit, Pawar had stated that it was unfortunate that the state government (BJP was in power at the time of the violence) and law and enforcement authorities failed to protect the interest of the common man residing at Koregaon Bhima and its vicinity.