Mumbai: The Nationalist Congress Party on Wednesday urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to drop charges against human rights activists and civil rights defenders arrested last year in connection with the Koregaon-Bhima cases.
Two senior leaders and legislators - Dhananjay Munde and Jitendra Awhad - have issued separate appeals to the CM, who leads the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
"I have always maintained that the previous (BJP) government was attempting to finish off the Dalit movement by branding their leaders as Maoists. Charging them under sedition was improper," said Awhad.
Munde said in a letter to Thackeray that the earlier government of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had slapped false charges against the activists.
"The then government has harassed intellectuals, activists, social workers and even ordinary citizens, and labeled several of them as 'urban Naxals' in the case," Munde said.
Reacting to the demands, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party targeted the ruling Shiv Sena questioning its brand of nationalism.
"Is this the Shiv Sena of the legendary Balasaheb Thackeray? Weak and compromiseda Would he have ever negotiated on issues of national security?" said BJP IT Cell Chief Amit Malviya in a tweet.
Last year, the Pune Police had arrested at least nine persons in connection with the December 31, 2017 public meeting by the Elgar Parishad and the subsequent caste riots on January 1, 2018 in Koregaon-Bhima village of Pune.
Those arrested in raids across the country were accused of harbouring links with the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist. They include: Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale. P. Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira.
Among other, they have charges with anti-national activities and attempting to overthrow the elected government at the centre and hatching a conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, NCP Minister Jayant Patil sought to downplay the issue saying that the matters pertain to serious and frivolous cases which would be properly examined.
"We will ascertain which cases are serious, in which cases activists have been deliberately framed, and those which are not serious, we shall consider withdrawing them," Patil told media persons.
The caste riots claiming one life, erupted on January 1, 2018 when over a lakh Dalits from across the state and country were celebrating the bi-cententary (200 years) of the historic Anglo-Maratha War in Koregaon-Bhima.
The war has political significance as the Mahar caste soldiers of the small Bombay Native Infantry of the British East India Company had vanquished the Peshwa's large army.