RTI activist Suhas Haldankar, who exposed several civic deficiencies and openly raised his voice against the inefficiency of local corporators in Kharalwadi area of Pimpri-Chinchwad, was brutally murdered late last evening, allegedly by 11 persons, including a former Congress corporator. All of them have been arrested by the police and were remanded to eight-day police custody by a local court here. According to police, Haldankar, who was heading home on his motorbike around 10 pm on Sunday, was stopped en route by two of the accused at a chowk in Kharalwadi area. Haldankar was allegedly ridiculed by the accused over a board that he had put up, highlighting the lack of basic civic amenities, like public toilets for women, in the Kharalwadi area. The board was put up by Haldankar just before civic elections in Kharalwadi area, represented by two Congress corporators.
As a verbal duel ensued between the accused and Haldankar, other accused also joined in and started thrashing Haldankar. One of them picked up a concrete block lying nearby and threw it at him. The concrete block hit Haldankar on the head. Other accused also picked up concrete blocks and darted them towards Haldankar, who collapsed in a pool of blood, one of the eye-witnesses who has given statement to the police told this paper. Rushikesh Kate (33), an eye-witness, has lodged a complaint of murder with Pimpri police. There are at least five eye-witnesses in the case. Haldankar was rushed to a hospital, but was pronounced dead at the hospital. Assistant police inspector R R Thubal is investigating this case. Police produced the 11 accused persons before the Pimpri court on Monday. “The court remanded all accused persons to police custody for eight days,” said Thubal.
Accordingly, police have arrested 11 persons — former corporator Sadguru Mahadev Kadam (45) and Kalya alias Sandip Tanaji Kalapure (39), Pratul Revji Ghadge (38), Abhijit Balasaheb Kalapure (26), Dattatryaya alias Fetya Gulab Kalapure (28), Santosh Magan alias Mundya Arbekar (43), Pravin alias Zingrya Mahadev Kadam (31), Khandya alias Pravin Pandurang Savant (24), Santosh alias Babya Chandrakant Kadam (27), Amar Mohammed Pathan (25) and Satish Mahadev Kadam (33) — all residents of Kharalwadi area, under sections 302, 323, 342, 506, 143, 148, 149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A search is on for the 12th accused, Ganesh Jadhav.
“A probe so far revealed that accused Kalya alias Sandip Kalapure had lost his job because of Haldankar. Kalapure worked as a watchman at the ‘bal bhavan’ run by PCMC. Haldankar complained to Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) that Kalapure was not at work most of the time and was not performing his duty properly. An inquiry was initiated by PCMC against Kalapure and he lost his job. Kalapure nursed a grudge against Haldankar. Also, Haldankar had put up banners in the area against Kailas Kadam (who is the brother of accused Sadguru Kadam. Both are former corporators)…..” said assistant inspector Thubal.
Tension prevailed in Kharalwadi area throughout the day on Monday. A silent march was taken out by local residents and activists demanding action against the culprits and end of “goonda raj” in Kharalwadi area. Residents alleged that murder and murder attempts had been common in Kharalwadi for years and police had failed to act decisively against the goons. An elderly resident said goons openly consumed liquor and police turned a blind eye towards them.
A year or so back, Geeta Mancharkar, the then chairperson of Women and Child Welfare Committee of PCMC, was allegedly attacked by then local corporators. Both of them were arrested and had spent two months in jail before getting bail from the High Court. Advocate Sushil Mancharkar, a resident of Kharalwadi, alleged that all the arrested persons were hardened criminals. “They were all consuming liquor openly in Kharalwadi chowk. This is very common in the area. Women fear to step out of their homes in the evening hours,” he said, demanding the slapping of the stringent MCOCA against the culprits.
Mancharkar said Haldankar was a fulltime RTI activist. “He used to be very agitated if public toilets were in shoddy condition or footpaths were broken. Using RTI, he used to expose the wrongdoings in Kharalwadi area,” he said. RTI activist Maruti Bhapkar said, “Haldankar was a die-hard RTI activist. Along with me, he had participated in Anna Hazare agitation in Maharashtra and even in Delhi. But his strength was raising local issues. He tried to ensure basic amenities for the local residents,” he said.