Superintendent of Palghar police Gaurav Singh was on Thursday sent on forced leave by the Maharashtra government, three weeks after three people, including two sadhus, were lynched by villagers in Palghar.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh Thursday visited the Gadhchinchle village in Palghar, where the incident took place on April 16. He was accompanied by state DGP Subodh Jaiswal and officers from the state CID, which is now investigating the case. So far, 110 villagers have been arrested.
In a video, Deshmukh said, “I met the elected representatives and locals there to understand the reason behind the incident. After listening to them, the government has decided that Palghar SP Gaurav Singh be sent on forced leave and additional SP Palghar be given the charge in the interim.”
Prior to this, five policemen from the Kasa police station, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place, including the in-charge, were suspended, while 35 were transferred.
Sources said that after speaking to the local representatives, including the MLA, MP and the sarpanch of the village, Deshmukh was informed that the police was aware of rumour-mongering in the area about thieves and child lifters on the prowl. “It was believed that if strict action had been taken to curb the rumour mongering, the lynching could have been avoided,” an official said.
An official said that Deshmukh also received applications from the families of several arrested accused, saying they were wrongly picked up by the police. Deshmukh told them he will wait for the CID to complete its enquiry.
The lynching had taken place on April 16, when Chikne Kalpvrukshgiri (70), his disciple Sushilgiri Maharaj (35) and driver Nilesh Tegade (30) were headed to Surat from Kandivali to attend the funeral of a senior saint amid the coronavirus lockdown.
The vehicle managed to evade the police check-point and reached right upto the Maharashtra and Dadra-Nagar Haveli Taluka, nearly 150 km from Mumbai. They were stopped by the forest guards and it was on their return journey that they were mistaken as child lifters and lynched.
The lynching became a political flashpoint, with the Opposition criticising the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and alleging it unable to handle the law and order situation in the state. Attempts were also made to give the incident a communal colour. The misinformation had to be countered by releasing the name of all the arrested accused to show that they were from the same community as the deceased.