Nine years after her husband, a local Congress leader, was stabbed to death by two men near his house in Jalgaon, Rajni Patil says she finally sees a glimmer of hope. All these years it has been a fight against “political heavyweights” and their numerous attempts at cover-up, she says.
“Nine years after my husband’s murder and after probes by four different investigating agencies and numerous attempts of cover-up by political heavyweights, only now have the real conspirators been named,” Rajni told The Indian Express, two days after a local court summoned Gajendra Patil, brother of former President Pratibha Patil, and Ulhas Patil, a former Congress MP from Jalgaon, as accused in the case.
“There are statements by the arrested assailants pointing to how Gajendra Patil and Ulhas Patil orchestrated the murder. There are call records which show that the two other accused in the case were in touch with these two leaders before the murder,” she said. “The motive is also clear — political rivalry. All the four agencies that probed the case have been ignoring these findings. This shows how even so-called independent investigating agencies work for political masters.”
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Her husband Vishram Patil, an English lecturer in a local college who had just got elected as the president of Jalgaon district Congress, was murdered as he left home for his college on the morning of September 21, 2005. The two assailants slit the 50-year-old’s throat and stabbed him several times on the chest.
A few days later, police arrested the assailants — Raju Mali, a Congress worker, and his relative Raju Sonavane. Two other Congress workers — Damodar Lokhande and Liladhar Narkhede — were subsequently arrested.
Vishram Patil had defeated Gajendra Patil in the election for the district president. “My husband was a loyal Congress worker and believed that if the party works for the people, they will support it. After he was elected district president, he wrote to the PCC and AICC complaining of a fraud in the tsunami relief fund at the local level. Because of such things, both Ulhas Patil and Gajendra Patil did not want him as president,” she alleged. “Days before the murder, my husband had received anonymous threat letters.”
After the murder, she said, the investigation went from one agency to another. “First the local police station probed the case, then the local crime branch. As they were about to name Gajendra Patil and Ulhas Patil, the case was suddenly transferred to the state CID. The CID filed the chargesheet but not against Narkhede and Lokhande although they were still accused. At this time I decided to step in as I could see powerful people getting away,” Rajni alleged.
She said the case was then transferred to CBI in February 2007. “CBI did not name Gajendra Patil and Ulhas Patil… I lost all my courage but then I decided to approach the high court to fight for what my husband fought — truth.”
Senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, who has been representing her in the high court since 2007, said, “This is a massive cover-up. From the beginning of the probe, the investigating agencies had concrete material to link Gajendra Patil and Ulhas Patil to the murder. It is clear that the cover-up of this magnitude is not possible without involvement of people placed very high-up.”
Gajendra Patil’s could not be reached for comments. The Indian Express was told at his home that he was out and that he did not have a cellphone. Several calls on his landline number later got the same response. Ulhas Patil’s phone was not reachable.
Sudarshan Salunke, Rajni Patil’s lawyer in the Jalgaon court, said, “There are several call records between the accused and both Gajendra Patil and Ulhas Patil. Jayesh Patil, secretary of Ulhas Patil, told police that both Mane and Sonavane met Ulhas Patil before the murder. On October 3, 2005 Sonavane told a CID officer in front of witnesses that Mane had taken him to Gajendra Patil and Ulhas Patil, where they had talked of ‘finishing’ Vishram Patil. This statement was also never brought before the court by any agency.”
“Raju Mali, who reportedly died of AIDS in a hospital in Aurangabad, wrote letters from jail to both Gajendra Patil and Ulhas Patil asking for payment of money. Sonavane still says if released he will go and ask the two for the remaining money. What more did the investigators want as evidence to make these two accused in the case. After we put these evidence forward, the sessions court has now summoned the two as accused,” he said.