By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, April 21
Two inspectors of the Maharashtra Police have been suspended and a high-level probe has been ordered into the mob lynching incident that led to the death of three men, including two Sadhus, at Palghar in Maharashtra on Thursday night, even as Union Home Ministry sought a report from the Maharashtra government about the incident.
101 people arrested under sections (302, 120 B,427, 147,148,149) of IPC have been remanded to police custody till 30 April, 2020 and nine juveniles have been sent to remand homes. Similarly Assistant police Inspector Anandrao Kale and Police Sub-Inspector Sudhir Katare of Kasa police station have been suspended by the Inspector General of Police (Konkan Range) Niket Kaushik, for alleged dereliction of duty.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to take strict action against the culprits. Whereas the BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj and other seers across the country have threatened to march to Maharashtra as a protest against the incident, if stern action is not taken against culprits.
The saints of “Juna Akhara” Swami Kalpvrikshgiri (70), Swami Sushilgiri (35) and their driver Neelesh Telgade (30), were brutally attacked by the villagers (mainly tribals), between 9.30 PM and 10 PM at Gadchinchale village, on April 16. They were on their way to Surat (in Gujarat) to attend a funeral of their guru Sri Mahant Ramgiri. They were travelling from Kandivali (in North Mumbai) to Surat and had permission given by the Samta Nagar Police station in Kandivali. The villagers stopped their vehicle and began attacking them on suspicion that they were thieves/ child lifters.
Based on the information given by a forest department employee, the police team reached the spot and took the 3 men into their custody and placed them in their own vehicle. But what happened subsequently was difficult to digest. Because the tribals dragged them out, over turned the police vehicle and continued to beat them with sticks.
In extremely disturbing video footage, the elderly sadhu, already bleeding from the head, can be seen, clinging on to the arm of a policeman. He desperately tries to hold on to the policeman’s arm and pleads with him, but the cop brushes him off and steps away. A few people surround the sadhu and start raining blows on him. There are at least 5-6 other policemen seen in the footage, but none came forward to save the elderly sadhu or to control the mob. A group of attackers keep raining blows on the 70-year-old sadhu till he collapses and sits on the ground. But they don’t stop and keep hitting him with sticks till he lies prone on the ground, unconscious.
The sadhus belonged to the revered ‘Sri Panch Dashanam Juna Akhara” (‘Akhara’ means an order of Hindu monks or sadhus). This Varanasi-centred ‘Juna Akhara’ is considered as the largest and oldest order of sadhus in the country. It was recently in news for designating a Dalit sanyasi as “Mahamandaleshwar”, an influential position in the order.
The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, in a letter to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, alleged police inaction and questioned why police did not fire in the air to disperse the murderous mob. The Parishad also alleged that Rs. 50,000 and temple ornaments were looted from the sadhus by the mob. The Parishad is an apex body of 14 Akharas including the “Juna Akhara”. It demanded strict action against the culprits and threatened to gherao (surround) the Maharashtra government in large numbers once the lockdown is over.
Maharashtra BJP chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said that local Gram Panchayats in the area where Sadhus were murdered, are controlled by Communist Party of India (Marxist) and local members of Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samittees belong to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and yet Congress was making a baseless allegation that the most of the accused arrested belonged to BJP signalling the police about how they should proceed in investigation. Besides the local MLA belongs to CPM.
According to locals, most of the names mentioned in the FIR are CPM activists. Also, it is claimed by local residents that Panchayat Samittee members of NCP and CPM were present on the site when the shameful incident took place. A local NCP leader who is member of ZP was seen in the video clip of the incident which went viral on social media, Bhandari said.