The Maharashtra ATS, which faced flak from the National Investigation Agency for its investigation in to the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, is now facing allegations of making people, questioned in the case, disappear. The family of the then 28-year-old Dilip Patidar, an Indore resident, who was allegedly brought to Mumbai for questioning by the ATS in 2008, has been missing for over eight years now.
His family has now approached Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and sought permission for granting sanction to prosecute the ATS officers responsible for his disappearance.
The family has alleged that then ATS officials, Rajendra Ghule and Ramesh More, were responsible for Patidar’s disappearance. Patidar was last seen by his wife Padma on the intervening night of November 10 and 11, a month after the blast at Malegaon on September 29, 2008. At a press meet in Mumbai Friday, she said there were at least 4 to 5 officers, claiming to be from the Maharashtra ATS, who had knocked at their door a little after midnight, along with Ajay Markam, the then local police official from Khajrana police station in whose jurisdiction the Patidars lived.
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The family lived in Shanti Vihar colony in Indore as tenants of Ramji Kalsangra, the main accused in the Malegaon 2008 blast case, who is still absconding. “Our only connection to Ramji Kalsangra and Shivnarayan Kalsangra (the brother of Ramji and an accused in the Malegaon 2008 blast case who has been given a clean chit by the NIA) was that we were living as tenants in a house owned by them. My husband worked as an electrician and we had been living in the house for over eight years, before the police came knocking one night,” says the 32-year old Padma.
“The ATS officers asked him to step out of the house and were talking to him for a few minutes. He then came inside and told me that they were taking him to the Khajrana police station and that he would be back. I have not seen him since,” Padma says.
She adds that after spending a few impatient hours, she put her then six-month old son Himanshu to sleep and went alone to the Khajrana police station, over six kms away from her home. “The police told me that my husband was not brought there. I was very scared and informed our family,” she says.
For over six days after Patidar was picked up, the family received calls from him which lasted for barely a few minutes. “The last call we received was on November 17, 2008, after which we have not had any contact with him. It was the ATS making him call us to ensure we do not take any legal recourse against them,” said Patidar’s elder brother Ram Swaroop.
He adds that they were informed by Patidar that he was taken to Mumbai and that the ATS was forcefully making him a witness in the blast case.
On November 24, 2008, Swaroop filed a Habeas Corpus petition before the Indore High Court which eventually asked the CBI to investigate the matter.
The Maharashtra ATS had told the court that Patidar had returned to MP after they recorded his statement.
A closure report filed by the CBI in 2014, before the Indore court, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, indicts Ghule and More, with offences made out against them under Sections 120-B (conspiracy), 342 (wrongful confinement), 344 (voluntarily causing hurt), 348 (wrongful confinement to extort confession) 193 (false evidence) and 218 (public servant framing incorrect record) of the IPC.
The closure report says, “accused Rajendra Ghule abducted Dilip Patidar and conspired with accused Ramesh More to illegally detain him with intention to extort a confession from him. They also prepared incorrect documents with intention to save themselves from penal consequences and to use these documents in the judicial proceedings.” It adds that Patidar was never arrested or produced before a magistrate in violation of the law.
It also says that Ghule called Swaroop on November 21, asking him to send Patidar for a court hearing to Mumbai. Swaroop informed Ghule that his brother had not come home since he had been taken to Mumbai by the ATS.
The report notes that Ghule had never spoken to Patidar’s family members since he had been picked up, before that day. “On that day, he (Ghule) knowingly called the family members to show that they had released Dilip Patidar from the ATS office. It is a clear indication of his culpable mind,” the report says.
“Inspite of the finding of the CBI that some ATS officers were involved in the crime of abduction, torture, disappearance of my husband, no action has been taken… The state of Maharashtra has not given sanction for prosecuting the accused mentioned in the CBI report,” the letter written by Padma to the CM says.
Incidentally, the NIA in its chargesheet before the special NIA court last week, had a statement of Markam, a local Madhya Pradesh cop who accompanied the ATS team to Patidar’s home. Markam says that the team had entered the home of Shivnarayan Kalsangra and conducted the search with Patidar as a witness.
Advocate Prashant Maggu, who accompanied the families, said that a closure report filed before a local court in Indore indicted the two ATS officials, but the sanction to prosecute them remained pending before the Maharashtra government. “We are hopeful that the CM will give the sanction so that the truth about my brother comes to light,” Swaroop said.