Senior opposition leader and NCP founder Sharad Pawar recently spoke about presence of 'urban naxals' in Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune and Nashik. He made the statement in Gadchiroli just days after the encounter in which 26 Maoists were killed, prominent among them being Milind Teltumbde.
Pawar’s statement is a clear signal that MVA government and the state home ministry led by NCP leader Dilip Walse Patil have taken the threat posed by left-wing extremism, seriously.
When BJP was ruling Maharashtra and NCP was in opposition, the latter was mostly silent on the issue of 'urban naxalism. However, to its credit, it was NCP home minister late R.R. Patil who had initiated the arrest of Angela Sontake in 2011 after it was found that Maoists had conducted a camp in Ambegaon Khed region of Pune district.
But when NCP was in opposition, the party appeared to side with 'urban naxals' arrested by Devendra Fadnavis government in Bhima Koregaon violence case. In fact, just after coming to power, in December 2019, senior NCP minister Jitendra Awhad had urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to drop the cases against high-profile accused in Bhima Koregaon case. Pawar, too, had taken a stand then that accused like Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj cannot be in jail for over a year. “You cannot put people in jail just because you found some books (on naxalism) with them. I also have a large collection of books and might have a couple of books on naxal ideology. People read different types of books that doesn’t mean I follow that ideology,” Pawar had, reportedly, said then, favouring a reinvestigation into the charges against the intellectuals arrested.
Maharashtra BJP chief spokesperson Keshav Upadhye told THE WEEK that the BJP has been highlighting urban naxal phenomenon. “These people attacked us then and criticised us saying there is nothing of that sort. But now, Pawar is saying it himself. We are happy that Pawar has understood the problem and the truth is finally out,” Upadhye said.