NEARLY two weeks after three men including two sadhus were lynched by a mob of villagers in Dahanu taluka of Palghar district, it has emerged that a separate mob of about 200 men stopped and assaulted a Maharashtra police bus that was rushing reinforcements to the lynching site on the intervening night of April 16 and 17.
For more than three hours, the bus was held hostage at Chisda village near Khanvel in the union territory of Dadra-Nagar Haveli, about 13 km from Gadchinchle village in Palghar’s Dahanu taluka where the lynching occurred that night around 11 pm.
A First Information Report was registered on April 17 at Khanvel police station, located just 5 km from Gadchinchle, regarding this assault on the police bus in which some policemen sustained minor injuries. Nineteen men from Chisda and nearby areas arrested on April 24 and later released on bail. Two men, the alleged masterminds, were picked up once again on Thursday and placed under preventive detention.
According to Dadra-Nagar Haveli Collector Sundeep Kumar Singh, Suraj Zimne and Jagdish Rathad of a locality called Patelpada in Chisda village were found to have led the mob of 200 to 300 men to cut down a tree and block the highway that night, soon after the lynching at Gadchinchle. “In order to ensure that the incident is not repeated, after examining the situation, we felt they should be placed under preventive detention under the Gujarat Prevention of Anti Social Activities Act, 1965,” said Singh.
Apurva Sharma, Sub Divisional Magistrate of Khanvel, said the two instigated others to intimidate the police and throw stones at the police bus. “They held the bus hostage for more than three hours and damaged the vehicle,” said Sharma.
The complainant in that case is Assistant Police Inspector Vilas Jadhav of Talasari police station, whose team of reinforcements was headed to Gadchinchle via Dadra-Nagar Haveli.
Superintendent of Police of Dadra-Nagar Haveli Sharad Darade said 19 men were arrested on April 24 for rioting and obstruction of government officials. “While the incidents are separate, details have now been shared with the Maharashtra CID to check for any common elements. Photographs of the accused have been shared too,” Darade said.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra CID which has started its investigations into the lynching on Friday arrested five men from Gadchinchle and Divshi villages after recording detailed eye-witness statements as well as identifying more accused using CCTV footage from a surveillance camera mounted on a Maharashtra Forest Department chowkey outside which the attack and lynching occurred. Among the eyewitnesses called to identify those seen in the footage are Gadchinchle Sarpanch Chitra Choudhari and Sonu Borsa, one of two watchmen posted at the forest department post.
“We have no reason to stop an Eeco, we just stop big vehicles that may have any contraband material, mainly to prevent illegal logging,” Borsa told The Indian Express. He also remembers the men who threatened to attack him if the Eeco was not stopped that night as it returned from the border, refused permission to proceed due to the lockdown-time sealing of state borders.
Borsa was also in the chowkey when, nearly two hours into the attack, a police team from Kasa police station arrived and tried to help the victims trapped in the now upturned Eeco vehicle.
“The police moved one sadhu and the driver into the police vehicle. The second sadhu, the old man, was hit on his head as soon as he came out of the Eeco.
He ran into the chowkey,” Borsa told The Indian Express.
Mahant Kalpavruksha Giri (70) was in the chowkey for barely five minutes, where a policeman was trying to protect him from the mob. “I got out of the chowkey at that point,” Borsa said. Minutes later, as a policeman escorted the sadhu into the waiting police van, the mob rained blows with lathis on both of them.
“The old man was the first to go, he fell and was beaten repeatedly. Then some others from the mob went to the police vehicle and pulled the other two out,”
Confirming the fresh arrests made on Friday, Additional Director General of Police (CID) Atulchandra Kulkarni said all aspects of the case are being investigated. “The investigation has just commenced, new names have come up in the probe and they were arrested,” he said.
The adult accused are all in police custody — the previously arrested 101 were named in a fresh FIR regarding another offence and remanded to police custody until May 13, while the five new arrests were also remanded to police custody till May 13. Meanwhile, teams of policemen have been searching in the forests and hill-slopes around Gadchinchle for other absconding accused. Local police officials said the accused men’s mobiles have been collected to study their location at the time of the incident and also any video or photographic evidence.
Since early this week, teams of policemen have brought a few accused, one by one, back to the village for a search of their home and for their mobile phones. Accused Ajay Borsa’s mother Bana said he was brought home for just a few minutes on April 27.
“They were looking for his phone any home and in the mud near the highway, but we couldn’t find it,” Bana said.
Suman Gavit, wife of accused Suresh Gavit, said a team of policemen brought Suresh back on Monday, and took pictures of their home, of the television and of their stock of rice from their paddy crop. “He drank a little water. I saw when he was changing his clothes that there are dark bruises on the back of his legs,” Suman said. Savita Borsa’s husband Vishnu was also brought home. “He was crying, but he told me not to cry too much.” she said.
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