Two months after senior BJP leader and former MLA Jayanti Bhanushali was shot dead on a moving train in Kutch district, Gujarat Police on Thursday arrested fellow party leader and prime accused, Chhabil Patel, from Ahmedabad airport, soon after he landed from the US.
“During primary interrogation, Chhabil Patel has confessed to his crime. He boarded an Emirates flight from New York, and after a stopover at Dubai landed in Ahmedabad at 3 am. We had this information. So, we detained him from there,” said Ashish Bhatia, Director General of CID-Crime.
According to the investigators, Patel had hired sharpshooters to kill Bhanushali because of a rivalry between them.
“During primary interrogation, Chhabil Patel said that he got Bhanushali killed due to an ongoing rivalry. The rivalry had worsened after Bhanushali was booked for rape in Surat. After that, Bhanushali and Patel had tried to reconcile. Later, Chhabil Patel was also booked for rape in Delhi. Chhabil Patel feared that he will have to spend a long time in jail and that more cases could be filed against him. Therefore, he got Bhanushali killed,” said the DG.
Bhanushali (56), a former BJP MLA, was shot dead on board the Sayajinagari Express, between Gandhidham and Samakhiyali in Kutch district, on January 8. In a complaint to the police, Bhanushali’s nephew, Sunil, had named Chhabil Patel, his son Siddharth, one Surjit Patel alias Bhau, and a woman from Kutch who had earlier accused Bhanushali of raping her.
As Chhabil Patel went absconding after Bhanushali’s murder, a seven-member SIT team was formed to probe the case. Later, the team arrested three sharpshooters — Vishal Kamble, Shashikant Kamble and Ashraf Sheikh — all residents of Pune in Maharashtra. Two aides of Chhabil Patel, Rahul and Nitin, were also subsequently arrested. However, the woman and Bhau, who according to police helped Chhabil Patel hire the sharpshooters, are still absconding.
Police said that Chhabil Patel had flown to Muscat on January 2, six days before Bhanushali’s murder. “From Muscat, he flew to the US on January 10, and was in New Jersey where his daughter is settled,” DG Bhatia said.
According to the investigators, Patel’s “surrender” comes six days after the SIT arrested his son Siddharth. Police later arrested Patel’s nephew and a relative. “He was feeling pressure from all directions, and therefore… he surrendered,” said the DG.