The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) has started emptying the Narmada main canal at the request of the state Crime Investigation Department (CID), which suspects that the body of Telangana migrant Babu Sheikh Nisar, 65, was dumped there after his alleged custodial death at the Fatehgunj police station in Vadodara on December 10, 2019.
This will lead to nearly five lakh people residing in two zones of Vadodara city going without water for 24 hours beginning Tuesday, once the canal is emptied without fresh water supply from Khanpur.
The Vadodara Fire and Emergency Services (VFES) department is on standby to search for the remains of the body after the state CID’s request, which comes a month after the local court in Vadodara on September 11 rejected CID plea for extension of remand of the six policemen, then attached to the Fatehgunj police station — inspector DB Gohil, sub-inspector DM Rabari and Lok Rakshak Dal jawans Pankaj Mavjibhai, Yogendra Jilansinh, Rajiv Savjibhai and Hitesh Shambubhai. They had refused to cooperate in the investigation after surrendering on September 2.
Officials said that based on the mobile location of the accused at that time, the CID has narrowed down on the canal near Gorwa area in Vadodara as the spot where the accused could have possibly dumped Nisar’s body. The CID believes that the accused used multiple vehicles to dispose of the body, one of which was a hatchback car belonging to the Head Constable Mahesh Rathwa, who is not an accused in the case.
Superintendent of Police, CID, Girish Pandya, confirmed that the request has been sent to SSNNL. “We have asked SSNNL to empty the canal so that the fire department can carry out a search,” Pandya told this newspaper.
VMC Additional city Engineer (Water works) and Executive Engineer (Water supply), Amrut Makwana, said that though the CID sought to stop water supply for three days, the VMC has consented to only one day. Makwana said, “In the jurisdiction of the VMC, the canal is 44 kilometres long. The SSNNL conveyed that the CID needs three days in which water supply must be stopped. But we told them that it is not possible to stop water supply for three days since the canal brings 75 Million Litres per Day (MLD) water to the city from Khanpur, serving nearly 5 lakh people. We have agreed only to 24 hours of no supply. They will have to complete the search during that time.”
With the consent of the VMC, the SSNNL stopped the water supply from Monday, to ensure that the canal will be empty by Tuesday, Makwana said. The canal, which passes through Vadodara city from Chhani to Sevasi, is a major water source to West and South zones of the city, including Gotri, Harinagar, Vasna, Tandalja, Subhanpura, Akota, Atladara, Kalali, Vadsar and Manjalpur.
SSNNL has stopped fresh water supply into the canal from Monday morning, which will ensure that the canal will drain by Tuesday. In some parts, the fire department will drain the water. Makwana said, “We have distributed water today (Monday) though the SSNNL stopped supply. Water will also be supplied in areas that have morning schedule but we will face problems from Tuesday evening,” Makwana said.
Chief Fire Officer, Parth Brahmabhatt, told this newspaper that the team is on standby to launch the search operation for the body, the moment the VMC informs them that the canal has been drained sufficiently. “We will carry out the search as per the instructions of the Municipal Commissioner, who has received the communication from the CID,” Brahmabhatt said.
Nisar allegedly went missing on December 10, 2019, after he was apprehended by the Fatehgunj police on suspicion of a theft. The first FIR filed by the Vadodara police in July this year relied heavily on the statement of Assistant Head Constable Shaktisinh, who has said that he saw Nisar tied to a chair with a belt and rope in the computer room of the police station to “restrict his movement”, while the six accused tortured him to extract a confession of the theft.
Shaktisinh has said that he saw the accused inserting a pen between Nisar’s fingers until he bled and “his voice faded away” and he “did not appear that he could be alive”, the FIR stated.
Nisar’s son had submitted an application to the Commissioner of Police, Vadodara city alleging foul play in the disappearance of his father from the city, after which an inquiry was initiated that did not lead to any conclusions. On June 20, the family filed a habeas corpus petition in the Gujarat High Court. On June 25, both the investigations were merged and handed over to Vadodara E Division. On August 6, the Gujarat HC directed the probe to be transferred to the state CID.
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