The Maharashtra Police has dismissed one policeman and told two others to resign from the force for failing to protect two sadhus and their driver from being lynched by a mob in Palghar’s Gadchinchle village in April. The action came at the conclusion of the police’s departmental inquiry last week.
Suspended assistant inspector Anandrao Kale (43), the former in charge of Kasa police station who did not deploy his arsenal of rifles, rubber bullets and tear gas against the mob fearing violent reprisal, was dismissed with immediate effect.
His colleagues, assistant sub-inspector R D Salunke (57) and head constable Naresh Dhodi (45), were told to put in their papers. Salunke was seen on cellphone videos abandoning one of the sadhus to the mob while escorting him from the forest department checkpost to a police car. Dhodi was pulled up for failing to protect one of the sadhus and the driver from the mob after seating them in his car.
Five policemen from Kasa police station and 15 from the Riot Control Police (RCP) had arrived at Gadchinchle 40 minutes after being alerted about the mob violence. A Maruti Eeco car ferrying Mahant Kalpavruksha Giri (70), Sushil Giri Maharaj (35) and their driver Nilesh Telgade (30) was stopped and attacked by villagers, who accused the travellers of being thieves and organ harvesters.
The state government had reacted to the lynching by sending then Palghar SP Gaurav Singh on compulsory leave, suspending the five policemen and transferring all remaining personnel at Kasa police station. It had also ordered the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to probe the murders and the attempted murder of the policemen.
Niket Kaushik, Inspector General of Police (Konkan Range), was tasked to conduct a departmental inquiry into the conduct of the policemen. Following the completion of his inquiry, Kaushik sent orders detailing punishment for the five policemen to the Palghar police last week.
Kale’s deputy, Sub-Inspector Sudhir Katare, was handed a two-year freeze on his increment and transferred to the Palghar Police Control Room. He resumed work last week. Head Constable Santosh Mukane was also given the same punishment.
Thirteen of the 15-member RCP team were also punished. While a three-year freeze in increment was handed down to 10 constables, the increment of three constables was stopped for one year.
“These constables are longer posted in the RCP. Following the incident, they were attached to the district police headquarters,” said Palghar police spokesperson, Sub-Inspector Sachin Navadkar. The RCP men had told the CID that they did not use their weapons as they had not received orders from Kale to use force.
The deceased had left kandivali on April 16 evening and were attempting to travel to Surat for the funeral of a sadhu. Telgade’s brother had told investigators that he was not aware if Sushil Giri had obtained permission to travel from the Mumbai Police.
A chargesheet filed by the CID had revealed that after leaving Mumbai, Nilesh had taken interior roads, passing through remote villages, to avoid being detected by the police as the nationwide lockdown was in place. The car reached as far as the forest checkpost at Maharashtra’s border with Dadra and Nagar Haveli before the travellers were forced to return, as they did not have travel permission. On the way back, they were stopped by the villagers at Gadchinchle and lynched.
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