In the 11 months since anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in Pune, police have questioned some 2,000 persons, probed eight crore phone calls and even had the Anti-terrorism Squad join the investigations, but have made very little headway in solving the murder. The two suspects they arrested, whom they accused of various other crimes and finally the murder, have got bail with the police having failed to file a chargesheet within the time limit.
There has even been a report that a desperate police once tried something Dabholkar had spent his lifetime opposing — black magic, believed to be the very reason he was murdered. Outlook magazine reported last month that they had approached a guru and got him to “call” Dabholkar’s soul with a planchette hoping to get some leads. The Pune police and the then commissioner of police, Gulabrao Pol, have denied it.
Ahead of a press conference Pol has called called Monday on this allegation, a look at the way the police have handled the probe.
The murder Dr Dabholkar, 68, was the founder of the anti-superstition Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS) and editor of Sadhana magazine. On August 20, 2013, the mild-mannered activist was on a morning walk when he was gunned down on the Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune, a few feet from two police chowkis — Shaniwar Peth and Balgandharva — and when there was heavy police deployment in the area because of a nakabandi operation.
An eyewitness told the cops that he saw the shooters flee on a motorcycle that bore the number 7756. CCTV footage too was obtained but turned out to be grainy and unclear.
The police checked hundreds of vehicles with the number 7756. Given the professional way the murder was carried out, they also questioned hundreds of gangsters and known contract killers. They picked up and interrogated some 2,000 persons including 200 criminals from Pune, 900 from other parts of the state, and several activists of Hindu outfits such as the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, which were opposing Dabholkar and the anti-superstition bill proposed by his MANS. Also under the scanner were black magicians who dealt in illegal firearms, religious gurus, traders of gems and stones, astrologers, and bogus doctors against whom Dabholkar had been campaigning. The eight crore cell phone calls probed were from various places where Dabholkar had been in the last few days before the murder.
Later, the state Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS), then led by Rakesh Maria (now Mumbai police commissioner), joined the probe.
The suspects Manish Nagori alias Manya, 24, and Vikas Khandelwal, 22, are alleged arms dealers who were in custody since the very day of the murder but charged with it only in January.
The day Dabholkar was continued…