The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of Kutch-based Dalit lawyer and activist Devji Maheshwari has arrested Mahesh Bhoja Hanat alias Mahesh Patel and two of his friends for allegedly helping Bharat Raval, the main accused, escape to Mumbai.
However, the motive behind the murder is yet to be established.
“We have arrested prime accused Raval, his employer Mahesh and Mahesh’s friends Prakash Bera and Rajesh alias Viram Devda for helping Raval escape to Mumbai after stabbing the lawyer. We have CCTV footage of various locations along Raval’s gateway to Mumbai and have also recovered the knife used to commit the crime as well as clothes he was wearing then. But, so far, as the motive of the murder goes, we are pursuing various theories, including social media rage and property dispute cited in the FIR,” a police officer, who is part of the SIT, told The Indian Express on Wednesday.
Mahesh was arrested on October 2, and by October 4, Bera and Devda were arrested. The SIT is headed by JR Mothaliya, Inspector General of border range and includes officers from Kutch (East) and Patan district police.
The Mumbai Police that arrested Raval on September 26 had claimed that the accused killed him after repeated clash over the lawyer’s social media posts that were “critical of Brahminisim”.
Raval belonged to Brahmin community, while Bera and Devda are Patidars.
Maheshwari, 50, was allegedly stabbed to death outside his office in Maheta Complex in Rapar town of Kutch on September 25.
A footage captured by a CCTV camera at a fast-food joint on the ground floor of Maheta Complex shows Raval, in red T-shirt, following Maheshwari as soon as the lawyer takes stairs to go to his office and fleeing the spot after a while.
“After committing the murder, Raval initially thought of running to the Rapar police station but changed his mind later and ran towards bus station.
On the way to the bus station, he threw his knife in a pile of garbage under a handcart near the bus station. After reaching the bus station, he washed his hands and then went to the premises belonging to Mahesh where he put on a shirt lying there over the red-coloured T-shirt,” the SIT officer said.
In her complaint, Maheshwari’s wife Minaxiben had stated that Raval and eight others murdered her husband because he had agreed to take up the case of a disputed community hall of the Luhar and Suthar communities.
She stated that after her husband took up the case, the accused had issued him death threats. She had named Raval, Jaysukh Luhar, Khimji Luhar and his grandson Dhaval, Pravinsinh Sodha and his nephews Devubha, Vijaysinh, Mayursinh and Arjunsinh as accused.
Based on Minaxiben’s complaint, the accused have been booked for murder, criminal conspiracy and under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
“We are analysing call data records of the accused to establish connection between them,” the officer said.
The four accused are presently in judicial custody. “The rest named in the FIR are still cooperating with the investigation,” the officer said.
JR Mothaliya could not be reached for comments.
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