In a major breakthrough for the Dahod district police investigating the alleged contract killing of Jhalod Municipal councillor and BJP leader Hiren Patel on September 27, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) has detained key conspirator, Imran Gudala, who has confessed that the “killing was ordered” by Amit Katara, son of former Dahod MP, Babu Katara, and brother of sitting Congress MLA, Bhavesh Katara.
The ATS detained Gudala, accused number seven who was on the run since October, from Mewat in Haryana on Sunday and brought him to Ahmedabad, from where Dahod district police will seek his custody. ATS officials said that Gudala has confessed that Amit Katara had “ordered” the killing.
Speaking to reporters in Ahmedabad on Monday, Imtiyaz Shaikh, Superintendent of Police, Gujarat ATS, said, “Three days ago, home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja held a meeting with Dahod police officers and also called ATS officers to the meeting to instruct that the accused must be arrested soon… we received information that he was hiding in Mewat in Haryana… He has said that he handed over the contract to bump off Patel at the behest of Amit Babu Katara.”
Amit Katara’s wife, Kinjal, was the president of the Congress-led Jhalod Municipality from February 2018 to August this year. It was after a high-stakes election of the president and vice-president of the local body that Patel allegedly tilted the scales in favour of the BJP allegedly by orchestrating “cross-voting” from three Congress members.
Shaikh later told The Indian Express, “Gudala has named Amit Katara and said that he facilitated the money to be given to co-accused Ajay Kalal for executing the contract. Kalal, in turn, gathered the team of executors.”
The ATS team has been searching several locations in the country for weeks. Shaikh added, “We had been trying to nab him for days. He eluded arrest for close to two-and-half months. This time, we had a confirmed input of his presence in Mewat in Haryana… We sought help from the local police… and detained Gudala on Sunday. Haryana police apprehended the person who sheltered him… We will now hand over Gudala’s custody to Dahod district police.”
The Dahod police, which arrested six accused in the case so far, issued instructions to the local crime branch in October to look for Imran Gudala alias Immu, after Kalal and other accused named him.
Gudala is accused of facilitating the finances of Rs 4 lakh to the accused, who hatched the hit-and-run plot on Patel. The six arrested accused include 2002 Sabarmati train burning convict Irfan Pada, Jhalod resident Ajay Kalal, Ujjain residents Sajjansinh Chauhan and Mohammed Samir Mujawar, owner of a roadside dhaba in Mahidpur in Madhya Pradesh Balram Bhuvanji, who allegedly facilitated the accused to meet on his eatery’s premises to plan the “hit-and-run”, and Salim Baju Shaikh alias Kala, who fetched one of the three cars used in the crime from his brother.
Teams from the Dahod Local Crime Branch (LCB) and Special Operations Group (SOG) were sent out to nab Imran Gudala, a resident of Jhalod and Irfan Basti, a resident of of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. Gudala reportedly has close political links with Babu Katara in Jhalod, while Basti was one of the contractors present on the day the accused allegedly rammed a Light Utility Vehicle (LUV) into Patel during his morning walk on September 27.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Dahod, Paresh Solanki, who is also the investigating officer in the case, said, “We will bring him to Dahod… and officially arrest him in the case of culpable homicide amounting to murder, in our territorial jurisdiction.”
Solanki said that while the district police will question Gudala after formally seeking his remand from the local court, the ATS has informed the Dahod police they Gudala has named Amit Katara in the crime.
On September 27 morning , when Patel stepped out for his morning walk around 6 am, the accused ran a Light Motor Vehicle (LCV) into him at a secluded spot at Muwada junction in Jhalod, ensuring that the impact was strong enough to injure him fatally. The accused had previously done a recce of the route that Patel usually take, police said.
Apart from the local election to the post of the president in August this year, an auctioned shop belonging to the Jhalod Municipality was also a bone of contention, investigation has revealed.
The Jhalod Municipality had transferred the title of the said shop to Kalal in July this year, though he was not an original bidder in the auction held in February. Records show that another resident of Jhalod, Rahul Jodha Rathod, was the highest bidder. However, after winning the bid, Rathod wrote a “consent letter” to the Municipality to transfer the shop to Kalal. The letter received a ratification from then president Kinjal Katara of the Congress.
Gudala’s detention comes two days after Gujarat cabinet minister for home affairs, Pradeepsinh Jadeja, met the family of Hiren Patel in Jhalod and assured them of swift action. Patel’s wife Bina passed away a week ago.