Police on Tuesday arrested an agricultural labourer after he allegedly set a watchtower on fire in an agricultural field with an intent to burn alive his rival in a love affair but ended up killing a 12-year-old boy who was accompanying his target, in Bhangadh village of Bhavnagar.
Police said that Anil Mer (20), a resident of Bhangadh village in Sihor taluka of Bhavnagar poured petrol and set on fire a makeshift watchtower in an agricultural field on which Vinu Solanki (25) of nearby Ghanghali village and 12-year-old Sukhdev Koli were asleep in the wee hours of Saturday. The boy, who was nephew of the landlord and Solanki sustained burn injuries and were rushed to Sir T General Hospital in Bhavnagar. However, the boy, who had sustained 80 per cent burns, succumbed to his injuries on Monday even as Solanki also continued to remain hospitalised.
After the incident of arson, police had registered a non-cognisable offence. But after the death of the boy, Solanki lodged a complaint with Sihor police. Based on the complaint, police booked Anil for murder and arrested him from his village Bhangadh on Tuesday.
Police said that incident was a fallout of a rivalry between Solanki and Anil to win over a girl of Bhangadh. Police say that Solanki, an agricultural labourer, had been working on the farm of one Ashwin Dabhi in Bhangadh village for many years. During his days in Bhangadh, he fell in love with a woman living in his neighbourhood. “But they fell out around two years ago. Meanwhile, Anil developed a relationship with the same woman. Some time ago, the woman told Anil that Vinu had been trying to approach her again. Learning this, Anil asked Vinu to stay away from the woman and warned of dire consequences if he persisted. Since then, the duo had a tiff going on. To put the matter to rest, Anil hatched a conspiracy to set Vinu on fire while he was asleep. However, the accused ended up burning the boy alive,” Sihor police sub-inspector Shaktisinh Jhala said on Tuesday.
Police said that Solanki had erected the wooden watchtower in the cotton field to keep night vigil and prevent wild animals from damaging the cotton crop. On the night of the incident, nephew of the landlord was also accompanying him. “Anil claims that he was not aware of the fact that the boy was accompanying Vinu that night. Taking the boy for Vinu, he poured petrol on the side of the watchtower where the boy was sleeping, set fire to it and ran away. Since the boy was covered in quilts and wearing winter jacket, he was engulfed in fire, causing serious injuries and ultimately leading to his death. Vinu, who was sleeping on the other side of the watchtower tried to save the boy but he too was injured,” Jhala, who is investigating the case further said.
Police said that a rechargeable torch found from near the watchtower lead them to Anil. “There was a sticker on the torch with the name of the owner. The owner turned out to be Anil’s mother’s brother. Subsequently, we traced Anil and arrested him on Tuesday for murdering the boy,” added the PSI.