The Surat police arrested five migrants, reportedly followers Asaram and his son Narayan Sai, for allegedly attacking witnesses in the rape cases against the father-son duo. The police also recovered stun guns, acid bulbs, knives and other stuff from their possession. They had allegedly plotted attack on the witnesses to weaken the rape cases.
The police sources said that a dozen followers drew out a list of 12 prime witnesses in both the cases and attacked three of them who are witnesses in the rape case lodged against Sai in Surat police station.
The first incident occurred on February 28, where husband of a complainant in Sai rape case was attacked with a knife by an unidentified person while he was on his way from the staff quarters to ESI Hospital in Majuragate. The accused escaped from the spot when the victim retaliated.
The second incident happened on March 10. A former Asaram follower, Rakesh Patel (40), a resident of Paal in Surat, was attacked by some unidentified motorcycle-borne men with a knife.
The third incident took place on March 16. A local textile trader, Dinesh Balchandani, faced an acid attack. Two motorcycle-borne men threw acid on him injuring his face and body on his way home near his house Vesu. However, Dinesh got hold of one of the accused and handed him over to the police, while the other man managed to escape escape on the bike. Dinesh was undergoing treatment in a private hospital and his condition was said to be in normal condition.
The accused was identified as Kishor Balchandra Bodke (26), a resident of Abhishek Township of Amroli and native of Solapur in Maharashtra. The police recovered a bag from his possession and a diary consisting names of his friends and followers of Narayan Sai.
Following the leads from Bodke, the police raided his house in Amroli and arrested two of his accomplices. The police also recovered nine mobile phones, 11 SIM cards, two motorcycles and a stun gun. The two arrested have been identified as Chandrashekar alias Talloi (24), native of Bijapur in Karnataka, and Gopal Patidar (25), native of Khandva in Madhya Pradesh.
During primary police interrogation, two more names surfaced in this connection who helped them to target the witnesses. Acting on the information, the Surat police went to Palanpur in Rajasthan and arrested one Dineshchandar Purohit and his brother Laxmanchandra on Monday evening.
The three accused were produced before Surat district court and later sent to police custody till March 24.
Sources said that Dineshchandra and Laxmanchandra were diamond artisans and were settled in Surat. Both are native of Sirohi in Rajasthan.
Surat Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthaana said, “We believe that to threaten the witnesses in the case, the followers of Sai and Asaram are involved in all these attacks. During interrogation, the accused told the police that they were 12 who came to Surat on February 18 with a target to attack the prime witnesses. Out of them, five persons have been arrested. We have provided security to three prime witnesses.”
“We suspect that the attackers might be given financial help from the ashrams. These arrested five attackers are not contract killers. They are followers of Sai,” he added.
A couple of months ago, after the case of rape was registered against Sai, his followers had tried to bribe the police, judiciary, health officials and jail authorities to weaken the case. The police busted that plan and arrested well-known builder of Surat city, Ketan Patel, city crime branch Sub-Inspector C M Kumbhani, among others in this connection. A separate bribery case was registered against Sai.